By on October 26, 2010

Since Sunday, a story made the news in Germany that a Ford Fiesta and a Peugeot 308 had been crashed by Germany’s auto club ADAC, with horrific results. Both cars come with a five star Euro NCAP rating. Hence, everybody wanted to know which of the cars failed badly. Now the auto club says: It’s not the cars that are bad. It’s the crash standards.

All crash tests pretty much simulate a collision with a stationary object. That’s just not realistic, says the club, and they have a point. Usually, a car collides with a movable object, such as another car. That’s what the ADAC test attempted to simulate. Two very safe cars crash into each other, at a speed of 56 km/h (35 mph) each. That’s the speed used for EU whole car certification. However, total speed of both cars is now 70 mph. Nothing is ever tested at that speed. The much stricter (and not mandatory) Euro NCAP tests at 64 km/h, (40mph). Both cars are optimized for current crash standards. But when they hit each other, they hit spots that are not in the standard. Crumple zones don’t crumple. The passenger cell loses its protective properties.

According to Germany’s Rheinische Post, the ADAC demands that “crash compatibility” should receive more attention. Not just when a heavy car hits a light car (light loses). Also when similar cars hit each other. If that would be taken into consideration, the ADAC projects that driving gets 7 percent less dangerous, which would translate into 150 people staying alive in Germany each year.

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40 Comments on “Germany’s ADAC Tests Crash Test. Crash Test Fails...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    However, total speed of both cars is now 70 mph.
     
    Not so; watch Mythbusters to learn more.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFkn37BDvTw

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    @ gslippy: You are correct.
     
    In Physics and Engineering classes, you learn crashing into an unyielding wall is the same as crashing into the identical car going the identical speed. The speeds are not additive.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      @ gs and cp:  This is generally true, but depends upon factors related to elasticity and resolution of the affected bodies.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @Robert.Walter:  You are also correct.
       
      Elasticity and localized mechanics play a large role in survivability, but this is a far cry from an impact at twice the speed.

    • 0 avatar
      sean362880

      Yes, but the “immovable” barrier is actually designed to crumple in the same way as a car, no?  At least that’s what it looks like from IIHS videos.
      http://www.youtube.com/iihs#p/search/0/Gb1XOUPcOtg
      And NCAP as well:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsz1mB3c4ZU
      Therefore ADAC may have a point that that a crash from + 35 mph -> -35mph is much worse than +35 mph -> 0.  All in agreement with the points about elasticity, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      sean: This is what the “deformable” barrier idea was about, to simulate the crush properties of another vehicle. 

      gslippy:  You are also correct regarding the role that speed plays.  Ek=1/2*m*V**2, this means that the kinetic energy in a system increases linearly with mass, but with the square of velocity … whether in the equation before, or e=m*c**2, velocity is terribly, and much more, important than mass.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I shall, as always, defer to those more versed in physics and engineering (i.e. those who know something, anything relating to those fields; I’m an artist), but I will continue to recommend nobody drive a 1959 Chevy Bel Air into a 2009 Chevy Malibu:

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      When that video came out, I sent it to every person I knew who touted “they just don’t build ‘em like they used to” and who always insisted old American iron was the safest around.
       
      Never mind that the old Bel Air is more likely to get you INTO the accident in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Fifth Gear did a bit about a year ago where an original mini going about 25 mph went into the side of a much newer Lexus.  The mini didn’t take much structural damage, but that was part of the problem because it meant all the energy of the hit went right to the passengers.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @philadlj: Well, I’m an engineer, but a lousy artist.  And you’re quite right about that video.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Hah, check out the comments from the Tony guy. Pure YouTube class:
       
      @Teg4Dr dumb fuck, I WOULD TEAR your ass apart inside out any debate, any subject. ME LOSING TO A KID?? nice fucking try.read my page, im a CERTIFIED CONSPIRACY EXPERT/THEORIST. where the fuck i said there were more cars in 1960? GO PUT ON SOME GLASSES BLIND ass BAT! for the last fucking time, show me the god damn DOT TRAFFIC DEATHS REPORT in 1960s/2000s?? im waiting bitch!! you WONT! The real loser is you for butting into a conversation you werent involved in only something gays do.

      What a charmer!

    • 0 avatar
      hurls

      I highly recommend that someone snap this Tony dude up and give him a column on TTAC.  When you can mix gay marriage and NWO (new world order, presumably) into a conversation about iron molecules “dying”, well then you’ve got something special.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      He had me at “CERTIFIED CONSPIRACY EXPERT/THEORIST”!

    • 0 avatar
      13withinfinity

      that Tony dude, lol..
       
      “CERTIFIED CONSPIRACY EXPERT/THEORIST”
      Somebody has been playing too many video games.

  • avatar
    twotone

    “…the ADAC projects that driving gets 7 percent less dangerous, which would translate into 150 people staying alive in Germany each year.”

    But at what cost? Recenty Graco announed the recall of TWO MILLION strollers as FOUR children died over a THREE YEAR PERIOD. Not much of a correlation here if you ask me. Hundreds of kids die every year in bath tubs — no recalls there. We can not have a 100% safe car, stroller, medication, etc. cost effectively. Sometimes, good enough is the best solution.

    Twotone

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed; just ask an airplane designer, and they’ll tell you about the tradeoffs of safety, weight, and economics.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I guess the issue is whether it’s a design defect, or just a property of the device by nature. Tubs are dangerous because, in order to be tubs, they have to hold water, and water can be dangerous. You can’t fix that in a tub, because then it wouldn’t be a tub.
       
      You can, however, make (for a random hypothetical example), a stroller that doesn’t have a pin with a badly-selected material, which fails and causes the stroller wheels to not lock. That isn’t essential to the nature of the device, and isn’t a tradeoff made for money reasons – thus it’s different than saying, “Stroller have to have carbon fibre safety cells”.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Two very safe cars crash into each other, at a speed of 56 km/h (35 mph) each. That’s the speed used for EU whole car certification. However, total speed of both cars is now 70 mph

    Don’t most people apply the brakes before such an event, hence the reason for a lower speed?

    I am wondering how much of an effect PreSafe-style technology (pre-braking, tightening seatbelts, other crash mitigation) would have, versus structural stuff?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Don’t most people apply the brakes before such an event, hence the reason for a lower speed?
       
      Sure, except for many drunks, which factors into something like 1/3 of the fatal crashes.
       
      Pre-safing the car would help a lot.  Dropping the 35 mph speed just to 30 mph would help by roughly 25%.  Although one possibility of the 35 mph impact is that the vehicle has already been slowed from some higher speed.

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/08/german-crash-tests-part-3-crash-slow-or-die-hard/

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    In order to get good NCAP results , most European cars are being built with windscreen pillars that seriously obstruct visibility , so lives are being saved inside the car at the expense of a higher accident risk , and loss of life outside the car. At a time when more people are cycling and running , they should be improving the visibility from cars , rather than ruining it.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Maybe there’s something to be said for the Swedish model after all, which incorporates data from crash records and reports.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Others have already noted – 35 MPH crashing into 35 MPH ≠ 70 MPH.  35 MPH crashing into 35 MPH = 35 MPH.

    However, it is difficult to change the laws of physics when it comes to weight and mass.  Check out these IIHS crash tests done:

    2009 Camry vs 2009 Yaris (note the head of the Yaris driver smashing into the hood of the Camry)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GKCAQCcdEA

    2009 Accord vs 2009 Fit
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaBuy1T69kQ

    2009 C-Class vs 2009 Smart Fortwo (watch carefully at the floorboards starting around 2:03 in the crash, left leg is probably completely crushed)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4k0FWvGoSM

    The Fiat 500 vs Audi Q7 is an even more difficult test – and the Fiat 500 when you compare to the above crashes does about equally to the sub-compacts crashed into same company sedans.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    Crash testing needs to be tailored such that the majority of people are protected in the majority of collisions the majority of the time. If “most real world collisions” happen with actual impact speeds below 40 mph then that’s what the vehicles should be designed for. Protecting ALL people in ALL collisions ALL the time has to be recognized as being impossible.
     
    If the engineering choices necessary to achieve protection in 80 km/h collisions that are comparatively less common result in lower survivability in more common 64 km/h collisions, then it could result in a net dis-benefit. And typically, that’s going to be the case. If you want the passenger compartment to not collapse against the occupants in an 80 km/h collision, it WILL have to be much stiffer, which means that higher deceleration loads will be encountered in ALL collisions including the much more common lower speed collisions.
     
    Regarding vehicle-to-vehicle collisions … it is absolutely impossible to test and design for collisions against every other foreseeable vehicle on the road at every conceivable angle and speed!
     
    I don’t think there is really a problem here.

  • avatar

    That’s what I love about this site.  An interesting article and then the informed, respectful comments add to it, including a physics lesson.  Every time I try to read comments about sports (save a select few blogs) or politics (ever) or even news, I begin to think they should require an intelligence test and a morality test before anybody has access to comment…  :)

  • avatar
    vvk

    Now crash that Fiesta into a Raptor and see if Ford people can still sleep at night.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Interestingly, I’ve made motion simulators for both the Fiesta and the Raptor – and people crash both of them on a regular basis. Not into each other, though. I don’t think that’s a takeaway they really want.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    I don’t understand what was wrong with the ADAC test.
     
    As people have explained, there was nothing wrong with their testing method. Crashing two cars into each other at 35 miles per hour should give you valid results. Much the same as crashing a single car into an immovable object at 35 miles per hour.
     
    The physics of the test is interesting. A lot of the physics is counterintuitive. That’s because the energy from a crash of two cars going 35 miles per hour is indeed double the energy of a single car crashing into a wall at 35 miles per hour. But in the two-car case there are two cars to absorb the energy. So it is not too far off from the one car hitting the wall.
     
    Interesting, though, that the energy of two cars crashing at 70 miles per hour will not be just double the energy of two cars crashing at 35 miles per hour. Energy varies by the square of velocity, not just linearly. So a crash at 70 miles per hour will be a lot worse than you might think.

    For that reason, had ADAC crashed a single car into a wall at 70 miles per hour, and tried to say that was the equivalent of two cars crashing at 35 miles per hour, that would be wrong and misleading. But that is not what they did, right?

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    Speaking of crashes, an unfortunate scientist in London got killed driving one of those electric G-Wiz cars.
     
    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23891001-scientist-was-on-way-to-parents-evening-when-she-died-in-g-wiz-crash.do
     
    The picture of the car after the crash is shocking. It looked, as the caption says, as though it was cut in half.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    This issue is so thorny it’s not even remotely appeasing. the issue of trading off safety for some sort of economical benefit is sick. but worse of it, every standard test in the world has its standards publicized and usually met by the manufacturers.
     
    and what pisses off even more, is that these designers and car makers know how and can produce a car that is safe or at least not a death trap at any speed. but they don’t….
     
    same goes with strollers, walkers, wheelchairs etc…. a users life is only worth how much money they save, which is usually in the single digits, being cents or dollars…

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      You *always* trade safety for economics.  There is no such thing as ultimate safety.  There is always a judgment call made about how much to spend on safety.  And every person has to make their own choice.
       
      Manufacturers of *anything* don’t go around making products with their name on it that will reliably harm others.  The liability is too high.  But there is always going to be some danger.  Thinking that you can get rid of it is far more dangerous and foolhardy.
       


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