Stiff and soft at the same time
Stress testing is the icing on the cake of development: it is preceded by lots of other tests targeting specific parameters and components of the car. Car safety is one of the most stringently tested criteria, with the demands placed on cars increasing with every new generation. Here, too, real tests are combined with computer simulations.
“Our principal mission is to protect the lives of the car’s occupants and also other road users like pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Simulations show us the right way to achieve that as effectively as possible, and physical tests confirm that the chosen solution is correct and safe,” says Csaba Sirgely, one of the development engineers responsible for the FABIA model’s safety.
According to Sirgely, even the basic development of the safety structure of a car and its entire body is a challenge. “We are developing a car whose load-bearing part is supposed to be as strong and stiff as possible so that it protects the car occupants in tandem with the perfectly calibrated restraint systems. But at the same time, the car’s body must ensure that any collision with pedestrians results in the least possible harm to them,” he says, pointing out how complex and often seemingly contradictory the requirements are.
The “towing dyno” is just one of the tools used by ŠKODA to make new car testing more effective.
For this reason, the car and its various parts are subjected to a series of impact and crash tests. Right from the start, computer simulations are used to design the surface parts of the body, like the bumper cover and bonnet, for example, which are then tested using dummies or “impactors”. The goal is to ensure the car is pliant in a collision with a person. “When developing the FABIA we shot impactors at the car and its parts over 200 times. But for every test of that kind there are around 140 virtual simulations that help us get the parts right before the test proper,” Sirgely explains.
In classic crash tests this ratio is even bigger and continues to increase, he says. There are around a thousand simulations for each crash test. “Development and physical testing takes place from the prototype to the first series. Thanks to our modernised Crash Lab at Úhelnice we can put several dozen cars through tough crash tests at every phase of development. Various parts are also tested: special skids test the durability and strength of restraint systems; the optimal working of airbags is tested for all the different types of crash test dummy; and various types of collision are tested. “During static tests we activate the passenger’s airbag around 300 times, for example. Every airbag in the car is tested roughly the same number of times, which results in a huge number of tests that are done at temperatures ranging from -35 °C to 90 °C,” Sirgely explains.