DEARBORN (WWJ) – While more powerful computers are doing a better job than ever of simulating crash tests, car companies are crashing more vehicles than ever in the name of safety.

“The proliferation of a variety of different crash test scenarios has resulted in us requiring to do more testing,” says Ford safety chief Steve Kenner.

Ford invited reporters to its Dearborn test track to witness a scheduled crash of a 2014 Explorer. With intense light, and slow motion cameras filming every millisecond, the vehicle rolled down a track and slammed into a barrier. It was over in the blink of an eye.

“The facility you are in today, can and does do five full vehicle crashes per day,” says Jackie Shuck, Ford’s chief engineer for global testing. “Throughout the calendar year 2013, we did nearly 600 full vehicle crashes.”

Ford started doing crash tests in 1954. Early this year, they celebrated their 20,000th test.

“It took us 40 years to reach the first ten thousand milestone,” said Shuck. “In order to reach the next ten thousand, we did that in half the time.”

The growth in real crash testing comes as Ford has upgraded its computer for virtual crash testing, allowing a tenfold increase in the capacity to test system in the computer.

But at the same time, Ford’s Steve Kenner says the company has more products to test, more standards to meet, and more pressure to build vehicles that are even safer.

“We need to make sure these global products can meet all of the regulatory and public domain testing requirements for the markets that they are going to.”

Groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are coming up with new safety tests, and pressuring car companies to meet even higher safety standards. The latest test involves simulating a crash into a tree or phone pole. Kenner says Ford has updated its testing regimen to make sure it’s vehicles can pass that test.

“All the auto makers because it’s a fairly recent test did not develop the products that are on the road today with that test in mind as a test protocol. All of us are developing our products now with that test in mind.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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