Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wedge Safety

In reply to my post concerning the odd convergence of shape between the forthcoming Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, Brad offered an explanation:

You'll probably see a lot of autos with similarly-designed hoods in the future, thanks to a 2003 European Community mandate meant to reduce the harm to pedestrians when they are hit by cars. The lower-end manufacturers (non-luxury) are using the wedge design that make these two models look so similar ...
He cited this document (PDF) and this article (reg. req'd) on it. I have not read the latter since I'm too sensibly frugal to register, but I browsed the former for several seconds, enough to convince myself that Brad's explanation checks out. It includes the following observation:
only limited possibilities on the car front end are available to reduce serious injuries, since the secondary impact with the ground has been identified as a major source of life-threatening head injuries ... the existing physical dummies are not suited to predict the benefit of safety measures on the car, and while subsystem tests seem to be more promising for testing, they have inherent disadvantages
But the news isn't all bad: if designers will think outside the box a little, they can find valuable data on the safety benefits of the wedge design and to what extent these safety benefits are mitigated by the inevitable head-ground collision. To wit:

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