• Nov 18th 2009 at 2:56PM
  • 78
NHTSA side-impact pole test – click above to watch the video

Not satisfied with cars that manage crash forces well enough to avoid spilling your drink, and engines that run so clean they'll barely asphyxiate ants, a new crash test is reportedly coming in the works from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Along with the test will come new dummies and new testing equipment, all of which means it's likely to have a big impact on future car designs. The side-impact pole test will simulate side collisions with objects like trees or telephone poles, a type of accident that current side-impact tests don't accurately simulate.

According to The New York Times, the new test will use a 10-inch round pole that will collide with the car at speeds of up to 20 mph. A 75-degree angle will be used, and the point of impact will be just aft of the A-pillar. Naturally, automakers won't have to pass the test all at once, the standard will be phased in. For 2011, 20 percent of an automaker's fleet will have to meet the standard and by 2014, the pole crash standard will be at 100 percent – all new cars will have to comply.

It's a change that could potentially change the face of auto design, the same way pedestrian impact standards in Europe have led to some peculiar front sheetmetal. Materials changes may also be employed to meet the regulation, with additional high-strength steel being substituted. The more conventional metals currently used are easier to form, while stronger metals require all sorts of hot pressing and tempering to be put into shape. Manufacturing cost will go up, which means prices will probably also increase, or profit will decrease while prices hold steady. Safe cars are a laudable goal, but how safe is safe enough? Follow the jump to see a video of how Ford's 2010 Mustang GT convertible and coupe models fare, then let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

[Source: The New York Times]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Dave Hill
      • 29 Days Ago

      But they put entertainment systems and displays that distract the drivers more than the are now. 

      • 5 Years Ago
      oh, haha, somebody said basically the same thing higher up. -.-

      not trying to steal your thunder Stacey
      • 5 Years Ago
      This has been on EuroNCAP for years. Smaller cars are going to be sold in the Euro market as well as the US, or at the very least, a very similar vehicle on the same platform. Large vehicles better be able to pass it with their extra mass.

      This is a non-issue.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Time & money would be better spent improving the drivers on the roads... or keeping some of them off of the roads!
        • 5 Years Ago
        +1, it is the nut behind the wheel that is the biggest safety problem. Root cause people, root cause. Until driving improves, all we are doing is chasing the symptoms of the problem.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My proposed solution to the problem:

      • 5 Years Ago
      And what is the point? I don't see too many cars go sideways into a pole. Why not do this up front and simulate a car going headon into a tree or phone pole at 60mph? That's a much more likely (an oft deadly) situation.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Most of these are strangely enough (or not so) performance oriented cars (Mustangs, 370-350Zs, Camaros, etc), that more than likely went out of control due to lack of driver skill and sense.
        The sportier the car, the more likely some teenager hoon thought he could take a curve at ridiculous speed or angle and the result is a car wrapped around a tree."

        Well then good sir, I say that we make sure that cars CANNOT withstand this type of crash. Why encourage hoons?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just because YOU don't see too many cars go sideways into a pole doesn't mean its not a reality and they don't happen with regularity.
        A trip to the local junkyard will reveal a lot of cars wrecked with various side impact collisions mostly from telephone or other pole(s) at moderate speed.
        Most of these are strangely enough (or not so) performance oriented cars (Mustangs, 370-350Zs, Camaros, etc), that more than likely went out of control due to lack of driver skill and sense.
        The sportier the car, the more likely some teenager hoon thought he could take a curve at ridiculous speed or angle and the result is a car wrapped around a tree. There is ALWAYS a tree a pole an abutment waiting for the callous driver who's lost control, and they always manage to find that tree/pole.
        Don't believe me? Head over to wrecked exotics.com and you tell me how many of the wrecks you see are NOT from pole collisions and were NOT fatal.

        Now I don't think we need any more safety regulations on automobiles, but at least some investigation on making the frame or bodies withstand some pole impact standard would help.
        Even so, there will always be idiots out there that will find a way to twist their car around something, you can't make anything foolproof, because fools are so damn ingenious...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm sorry to say this but if we didn't have the government forcing companies to make safer cars, we would all be driving around in cars that are no safer than a 1960's chevy. I lost a very dear friend in this sort of accident. he was the passenger in a camaro . his girl friend dropped a wheel off the edge of the pavement at about 30 mph, the car went sideways down into a ditch and hit a tree about the size of a human, it hit right where the front door and fender met. The tree pushed all the way back to even with the drivers bucket seat. crushing my friend on the way into the car. .
      • 5 Years Ago
      All you people complying about how these tests are unreasonable need to read the Euro NCAP data.

      Cars sold in Europe have been tested like this for nearly a decade and in 2009 the test was phased in as a requirement. They still sell relatively cheap small cars in Europe. In fact they sell smaller cars there then here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      When will the cost of carbon fiber come down so it can start to be incorporate in normal cars? Seems like it would solve a lot of problems of strength yet remaining light to provide fuel efficiency.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Carbon fiber is basically a very strong popsicle stick. While strong, it absorbs practically ZERO energy, and fails catastrophically, transferring energy away from itself.

        Metal is not nearly as strong, but it has tremendous ability to absorb energy via bending / tearing / etc. as it fails.

        All else being equal, for a given amount of impact energy, I will prefer to be in a metal cage than a carbon-fiber one. Yes, my metal cage will bend, but it will be less likely to break. And in an car, where multiple impacts are possible, bent metal will still have some protective value, whereas shattered carbon has none.

        All one needs to do is look at the stress-strain diagrams to see this to be the case.
        • 5 Years Ago
        But it also takes a lot of force to break the carbon fiber. Take a look at an Indy Car/CART/F1 crash since they started using mostly CF constructions. They cars blow themselves apart, which dissipates the energy around the inner rigid safety tub. Serious injury occurs when that inner tub is breached (Alex Zanardi) or the crash is especially violent (Greg Moore).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Carbon fiber is a brittle material; it has high tensile strength (relative to its mass) but when bent or folded it snaps and tears. Impact zones are well suited to being formed from metal since the metal structure dissipates a lot of energy as heat as it buckles and folds.
        • 5 Years Ago

        That's a good point. I mean they could design it to be some what modular, so only the sections that are broken get replaced. But then the weaknesses of the joints that hold those together would probably negate any benefits of the stronger material.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, carbon fibre is strong and light. But like others have said, it's incredibly brittle and not very good at absorbing energy (in lieu of your body). That's why F1 tracks have deformable barriers--the cars themselves don't absorb much of the impact energy, so the barriers have to do the job.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Carbon fiber weakens/loses its integrity after it's damaged [by a crash]. You cannot do incremental repairs to it (to date) meaning the repair costs are excessives.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Clarification: Because smaller cars (e.g. Ford C1 chassis, Honda global small car, etc.) are already sold in Europe, their frames are designed with this in mind already.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Reading this makes me laugh, I know this is primarily an american site, but you do realise there is a world outside the US right?
      Most countries are setting up this sort of test, so basically if you want to have your car industry survive, you need to have this test too.
      A lot of the comments on here have shown exactly why the US auto industry is in such a bad shape, for quite awhile you made the best cars, and had the biggest market, things changed, other cars got better, yours stayed the same, and now in world terms the US is a middle sized market, and its only going to get relatively smaller as the world population grows.
      American auto manufactures can no longer design and make vehicles for just the US market (apart from small run niche vehicles such as the GT500 mustang), they need to sell them to customers all around the world, otherwise next economic recession they really will be out of business, and no amount of US taxpayer money will save that.

      Sure big muscle cars are fun, but they also need to be safe enough to survive a crash.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I got one question,

      That tray the car is on adds to the total inertia, so instead of 3000 lbs crashing into a pole it could be 4000 lbs.

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