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If Volvo was synonymous with one word, it would be safety. 2010 marks the 10 year anniversary of Volvo Cars’ crash-test laboratory.

In the last 10 years the laboratory has conducted almost 3,000 crash tests which the company says has helped reduce the risk of injury or accident in its cars by more than 50 percent.

We can replicate most of the incident and accident scenarios that take place out on the roads. By analysing these and then testing new safety technology in the crash-test laboratory, we can improve the safety level in our cars so that they become even safer in real-life traffic conditions. The risk of being involved in an accident or being injured in one of our latest car models has been more than halved compared with a Volvo from the 1970s” says Thomas Broberg, senior safety advisor at Volvo Cars, Sweden.

Initially started by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf in 2000, the Lab has remained one of the leading centres for advancing vehicle safety worldwide.

Volvo Cars’ crash-test laboratory is vital to our global vision – that nobody should die or suffer serious injuries in a new Volvo car by the year 2020” says Alan Desselss, managing director Volvo Car Australia.

If you’ve ever watched a crash test you may have noticed the slow motion video that tells engineers how the car reacts at the point of impact. Volvo’s lab is capable of recording video at an astonishing 200,000 frames per second (using numerous cameras).

The new cameras give us exceptional scope for studying collisions down to the tiniest detail. What is more, we have a number of miniature cameras that are installed inside the cars to capture what happens with various key components in the vehicle,” says Thomas Broberg.

Using one fixed and one movable test track, collisions can be adjusted from 0 to 90 degrees. This allows for a whole series of tests to take place, mimicking real world crash conditions.

Some interesting facts about Volvo’s crash lab:

  • The Volvo Cars Safety Centre is designed to carry out advanced crash tests that contribute to increased knowledge and the development of safer Volvo cars. The laboratory makes it possible to replicate most of the accident scenarios that occur in real-life traffic.
  • The crash-test laboratory was inaugurated in 2000.
  • The crash test laboratory has a capacity to carry out more than 400 full-scale tests per year.
  • The crash-test laboratory has one fixed (154 metre) and one movable (108 metres) test track.
  • On the fixed test track, the maximum speed for a passenger car is 120 km/h. On the movable test track, maximum speed is 80 km/h. The speeds on each test track can be regulated independently of one another.
  • Point of impact precision in a test in which two moving cars hit at 50 km/h is 2.5 centimetres, corresponding to two thousandths of a second. By comparison, the blink of a human eye takes about 60 thousandths of a second.
  • On the fixed track it is also possible to crash-test trucks at speeds of up to 80 km/h. Crash tests on both test tracks can also be carried out in the opposite direction. At the other end of the fixed test track there is a 15×70 metre concrete slab that is used for various tests such as rollovers.
  • At the point where the two test tracks meet, there is a 6 metre deep, Plexiglas-covered pit for filming crash tests from below. The cameras that film the tests from above are installed in a rig 11 metres above the point of impact.
  • All told there are about 50 high-speed cameras. The fastest can take 200,000 frames per second. The smallest cameras can be used to study the way in which small components inside the cars are affected by the collision forces.
  • The laboratory’s crash block weighs 850 tonnes. It is moved with the help of air cushion technique. Different types of crash test barriers can be built on three sides of the block.
  • In addition, there are around 20 other barriers to support Volvos own extensive testing, based on knowledge from real life situations, as well as the various official test requirements.
  • Volvo Cars’ also performs crash tests in a unique crash test simulator using a reinforced car body with the actual interior that is to be tested. The crash simulator can recreate the tipping, or pitch, in real-life collisions without destroying the car body. It can also simulate intrusion into the passenger compartment, using ten pistons representing different parts of the car.
  • A new car model that is being crash tested in the lab has already been tested thousands of times in Volvo’s computers. In the computer a crash test can efficiently be simulated a number of times with different parameters without destroying a car.



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