After the Focus was awarded Euro NCAP’s highest rating in its crash tests, Ford has shared the processes it took to get the family hatchback to that level of safety.
As part of the vehicle’s development, the firm used its new sled test crash testing facility in Cologne, which cost to £13.7m (€15.5m) to build – which allowed it to put the crash structure of the Focus through its paces.
The sled setup also allowed the engineers to study the performance of the vehicle’s restraints so that there could be greater accuracy and flexibility in tuning how each one worked.
Up to four crash tests were performed each day during development, with the hydraulic-powered system able to replicate acceleration up to 80 times the force of gravity – so the vehicle would have an equivalent mass of 250 tonnes.
The setup included high-speed cameras that could capture 1,000 frames per second so that each part of a crash could be analysed, while the crash test dummies used also had 70 sensitive sensors attached to see the forces each occupant would go through.
Stephan Knack, head of the Ford Crash Test facility in Cologne, said: “Full-scale crash tests give us a wealth of information, but take longer to set-up. Virtual crash tests are fast, but not yet as reliable as the real thing. Our new sled test bridges the gap between the real and the virtual worlds, so that we can deliver improvements faster, resulting in safer vehicles.
“The sled test will now play a crucial role in enhancing the safety of every Ford passenger car and commercial vehicle developed in Europe.”
Before reaching this stage of testing, Ford used virtual crash testing to see how the Focus would perform under those circumstances so the engineers had a good idea of how the car would act under a real situation.