Since the 1950s, many carmakers have invested in facilities which allow them to assess the safety of their new vehicles. These facilities enable them to improve the design and give better protection. Some of them are very sophisticated and allow the engineers to subject prototypes to a wide range of conditions.
Audi is among the manufacturers with such advanced facilities and its Vehicle Safety Centre in its home city of Ingolstadt, Germany, has been improved further with state-of-the-art features and test systems.
The company spent around 100 million euros on this upgrade to the Vehicle Safety Centre which will be part of the in-campus technology park. As Audi’s most important development facility in passive safety, it covers all test scenarios that are known and relevant today, with heightened requirements that go beyond current international standards.
In fact, during the design phase, the brief was for the facility to be capable of performing tests that go well beyond the current requirements of Audi’s many markets. This means that the facility can be flexibly adapted to future developments.
The new Vehicle Safety Centre can handle a greater number and variety of vehicle crash tests than the crash hall previously used on the Ingolstadt plant site. Each vehicle undergoes a high double-digit number of test scenarios before it is launched.
The facility is also much more extensive, with a core area of 130 by 110 metres and a height of 20 metres. The integrated crash arena consists of a support-free area measuring 50 by 50 metres, while the opposing run-up tracks have a total length of 250 metres, enabling tests at speeds exceeding today’s usual requirements. An additional lane also allows right-angle car-to-car crashes involving two vehicles.
A crash block weighing 100 tons is arranged in the crash arena so that it can be moved and rotated, enabling a highly efficient process for the many different types of crash tests. The area is crisscrossed with several crash lanes, enabling research on collisions between two vehicles and integral safety. A ‘flying floor’ also allows vehicles to be driven sideways against obstacles.
Seatbelt systems and airbags are being developed even more efficiently, thanks to a novel coasting slide with a delay unit. State-of-the-art high-speed cameras and energy-efficient LED lighting systems enable recording of the tests in detail for analysis.
These days, practically all accidents can be simulated, whether they involve pedestrians or head-on and side-on collisions. Tens of thousands of simulations are performed even before the first prototype is built.
However, despite the rapid progress in simulation technology, actual crash and component tests remain essential. This is because the national authorities in various countries have approval procedures that require physical crash tests.
“Safety is a top priority at Audi. Our new Vehicle Safety Centre is impressive proof of this commitment,” said Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Audi Board of Management for Technical Development. “Today’s Audi models achieve outstanding results in globally valid test procedures. But we’re not resting on our laurels. Instead, we’re continuing to improve our development and testing capabilities.”