Heckcrashtest mit einem Audi Q8 e-tron

11/22/2023 Reading Time: 7 min

“Our mission: to save even more lives around the world”

In its new vehicle safety center, Audi subjects its vehicles to sophisticated crash tests to optimize them and increase safety standards – also taking into account the most demanding safety requirements used in the major markets of North America, China and Europe. A visit with the experts for crash tests and passive vehicle safety*.

*Experts consider “active safety” to be all elements in a vehicle that could help prevent an accident. For example: brake system, active emergency brake systems, chassis, tires, automobile light technologies and driver assist system like Audi pre sense. “Passive safety” involves elements that can reduce the risk of injury or eliminate it entirely. It includes seat belts, airbags, stable passenger compartments and energy-dissipating vehicle structures.

*Experts consider “active safety” to be all elements in a vehicle that could help prevent an accident. For example: brake system, active emergency brake systems, chassis, tires, automobile light technologies and driver assist system like Audi pre sense. “Passive safety” involves elements that can reduce the risk of injury or eliminate it entirely. It includes seat belts, airbags, stable passenger compartments and energy-dissipating vehicle structures.

Plastic and metal are crushed. Fragments fly through the air. A cacophony of sounds – a brief creak, an ear-piercing screech and a dull thud – fills the huge hall, deafeningly loud, like a gunshot, just more intricate and muted. A moving barrier traveling at 80 kilometers per hour rams the rear end of the white Audi Q8 e-tron, shoving it forward several meters. Then: standstill and silence. What’s left is a vehicle with a demolished rear end that can teach us a lot.

Audi Q8 e-tron: electric power consumption (combined) in kWh/100 km: 24.4-20.1 (WLTP); CO₂ emissions (combined) in g/km: 0. Information on fuel/electric power consumption and CO₂ emissions in ranges depends on the vehicle’s selected equipment. Consumption and emission figures for the vehicles are available only according to WLTP and not according to NEDC.

Audi Q8 e-tron: electric power consumption (combined) in kWh/100 km: 24.4-20.1 (WLTP); CO₂ emissions (combined) in g/km: 0. Information on fuel/electric power consumption and CO₂ emissions in ranges depends on the vehicle’s selected equipment. Consumption and emission figures for the vehicles are available only according to WLTP and not according to NEDC.

Martin Friedrichsen in the safety area

“We crash our vehicles for the purpose of learning how we can save lives even better and prevent serious injuries more effectively,” says Martin Friedrichsen, Head of Vehicle Safety. “Audi has set itself the goal of actively helping to define vehicle safety in the future. We support the ‘Vision Zero’ of the traffic safety work being done in many countries around the world. It is a vision that is also supported by the United Nations, the WHO and the EU.” The German Road Safety Council (DVR) says the main aim of ‘Vision Zero’ is a world in which no one is killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents.

 

The German Statistical Office reports that the number of traffic fatalities in Germany has been declining for years, as have the number of serious injuries.1 Nonetheless, the issue remains a top priority – and, thus, the importance of the work done by Martin Friedrichsen and his team. In the period between January to August 2023, 189,500 people were injured in traffic accidents in Germany, and 1,802 people were killed.2 The figures are much higher around the world: The WHO reports that an estimated 1.3 million people die annually as a result of traffic accidents. Between 20 million and 50 million other people are injured, and many of these individuals suffer long-term problems that arise from these injuries.3

Martin Friedrichsen in the safety area
Martin Friedrichsen, Head of Development for Vehicle Safety at AUDI AG

Safety is Audi’s top priority

Survey after survey has shown that safety is one of customers’ top priorities when they purchase a vehicle. The issue has a broad range of facets to it: “Our ‘active safety’ systems 4 can already help prevent accidents in individual cases,” Martin Friedrichsen says. “But you will still have situations in which accidents are unavoidable. This is where ‘passive safety’ 4 systems go to work. As a global premium manufacturer, we have made safety a very high priority. The company consciously invests in vehicle safety development, and we have been working from the very beginning on high standards designed to protect vehicle passengers.” This commitment has now become even more obvious at Audi: A new vehicle safety center in which Audi has combined all of its crash expertise has been opened on the site of the incampus in the east of Ingolstadt.

20,000 simulations – 1,100 real tests

The results of the rear-end crash test in the new hall have now been documented in detail. Even though the 220 vehicle-safety employees crashed about 1,100 vehicles in 2023 – along with conducting about 20,000 virtual accident simulations – the seconds that immediately precede and follow a crash are anything but routine. “In the blink of the eye, we see whether 85 years of crash-safety research and development pay off,” Martin Friedrichsen says. “As early as 1938, engineers of DKW, one of the four founding brands of today’s AUDI AG, conducted rollover and side-impact tests with DKW models. These are considered to be the first crash tests in the history of the automobile. Historic motion pictures taken at the time show how an engineer is able to easily open the door of an empty vehicle that has just rolled over several times.” The ability to open a door following a rollover accident remains a critically important factor to passengers and first responders today – decades later (VDA).

Consumer protection organizations as drivers of transparency and comparability

Andreas Schuller

Consumer protection organizations as drivers of transparency and comparability

No matter whether you are talking about “5 Stars” or “Top Safety Pick”: The requirements of international consumer protection groups like the IIHS (United States), China NCAP (China) and Euro NCAP (Europe) are designed to address changing accident occurrences and serve as constant driving forces behind and contributors to increased vehicle safety. The employees of the Audi Vehicle Safety Center face one challenge: The crash test scenarios are sometimes very different in individual countries. They can even lead to conflicts of interest in the development of a vehicle. “The pressure from outside is enormous,” says Andreas Schuller, Head of Development for Passive Safety Functions and Project Management for Vehicle Safety. “Our aim is to not simply pass the test, but to reach the highest rating possible. As automakers, we have to do a lot to reach this goal. This is why we speak with consumer protection groups about possible scenarios and requirements well before they define them.” The positive aspect of these discussions is that both Audi and the organizations share the same goal: saving lives.

Andreas Schuller
Andreas Schuller, Head of Development for Passive Safety Functions and Project Management for Vehicle Safety, AUDI AG.

Andreas Schuller is also an expert for vehicle safety requirements in the Chinese market. “China is evolving from a follower to a leader market. The standards have recently become higher and more demanding.” There are two primary reasons for this shift: China has not just one, but two very active organizations5 that set the agenda. And they also focus on specific regional safety aspects that differ from those in other countries. Why? Andreas Schuller says: “The different requirements are increasingly arising from local accident research and traffic monitoring. In China, the volume of traffic and the transportation infrastructure are different. Urban areas are filled with many small vehicles like motor scooters, e-scooters and bicycles with smaller wheel sizes. The result: In our tests we use a different dummy configuration, different pedestrian safety requirements and – depending on the particular Chinese organization – different barriers in side-impact crashes.”
 

In particular, the issue of “integral safety” is gaining momentum as a result of the activities of Chinese testing organizations. “By integral safety, we mean tests in which active and passive safety systems4 are tested together in the same scenario and not individually as we have done in the past,” Andreas Schuller says. The focus is on protecting passengers, even if they may not have an ideal sitting position. This may be the case if, for instance, a driver applies the brakes suddenly immediately before a crash or attempts to steer around a potential crash (see the infographic). “We can now conduct such complex evaluations of accident scenarios ourselves in the new crash hall – thanks to state-of-the-art measuring systems and equipment.”

Test scenario China

More details

weißer Balken
Sled test on integral safety in an alternative environment: the dummy sits in the front (photo 1). It is thrust into a non-ideal sitting position – when the driver applies the brakes suddenly immediately before impact or tries to avoid a crash (photo 2). At the same time, the upper body is pulled backward by the reversible belt tensioner (photo 3) in order to remain in an ideal sitting position. The crash then occurs with pyrotechnical tightening of the seat belt (photo 4).

Purchase recommendations for the US market based on excellent test results

Jochen Suppelt

Purchase recommendations for the US market based on excellent test results

Jochen Suppelt, Head of Development for Whole Vehicle Crash, is a highly respected expert for the US market and is a really satisfied man right now. And why not? The Audi Q5 was recently named a “Top Safety Pick+” by the US testing organization IIHS.6



The Audi Q5 earned this rating because the developers took the special requirements of the American market into consideration when designing the vehicle’s structure and interior. “The side crash test is a good example for these special requirements because it replicates a typical accident scenario in the United States,” Jochen Suppelt says. “You see lots of big, heavy vehicles like pick-ups on the roads there.” The forces that impact the other driver in an accident are correspondingly high if such a heavy vehicle rams another vehicle from the side (see the infographic). The United States has used a test that is specially designed for this scenario for 20 years now, and this test has been continuously enhanced during this period. No similar requirements exist in the European market because of the different traffic conditions found there. “Of course, we in Europe also profit from such tests, should this constellation occur during an accident here in Germany,” Suppelt says.

Jochen Suppelt
Jochen Suppelt, Head of Development for Whole Vehicle Crash, AUDI AG

Test scenario USA

More details

Andreas Schuller
The current side crash test (side testing 2.0) used by the IIHS is designed in such a way that it replicates a real and prevalent accident scenario in the United States. The moving barrier (photo 1) weighs 1,900 kilograms — about as much as a popular pick-up truck in the United States. The actual barrier is attached to the front of the barrier vehicle (photo 2). The barrier consists of several structures and materials. It simulates a widely used vehicle with a high front end and wide surfaces as closely as possible. The barrier has both hard and soft areas. Two SID-II (side-impact dummies) are used in the IIHS’s side crash test (photo 3). They are used to represent small women and are positioned in the driver seat and in the rear seat behind the driver. About 30 measurement values are recorded. The moving barrier hits the side of the test vehicle at a 90-degree angle while traveling at a speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) (photo 4).

Focus on traffic conditions

Birgit Arneth

Focus on traffic conditions

“In Europe, the consumer protection organization Euro NCAP acts as the driving force behind safety developments related to all road users,” says Birgit Arneth, Head of Development for Passive Safety/Incident Detection. Her special areas of expertise include the interplay of sensors in incident detection and the time-correct triggering of occupant restraint systems – like airbags and seat belts – if a crash occurs, and ways to protect the most vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

 

Birgit Arneth says: “The issue of pedestrian safety has been significantly shaped by Europe over the past 20 years, both in terms of laws and initiatives by organizations as well as automaker commitment. The positive effects are reflected in studies conducted into real accidents and in statistics, among other areas: The number of pedestrians killed in accidents in Europe has declined by nearly two-thirds since the requirements were introduced. This figure alone shows us just how important the work being done to protect pedestrians was and continues to be.” The impact is clearly seen when European figures are compared with regions that have less strict or no pedestrian-safety standards like North America: The numbers are climbing there – as figures through the year of 2021 show. The IIHS reports: The number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents has climbed by 80 percent since the all-time low in 2009 and makes up 17 percent of traffic fatalities.7

Birgit Arneth
Birgit Arneth, Head of Development for Passive Safety/Incident Detection, AUDI AG

 

“European organizations and manufacturers moved to the forefront in this area at an early stage and focused not only on producing safe vehicles, but also on creating the safest possible traffic conditions,” Birgit Arneth says. This facilitates both passenger safety and the least possible harm to other individuals involved in an accident (see infographic).

 

The effort to create the best possible interplay – not only in terms of pedestrians, but also of other vehicles – is reflected in the range of different crash barriers being used in Audi’s new vehicle safety center. Arneth says: “Deformable barriers enable us to simulate accident scenarios more realistically. Unlike a crash into a fixed block of concrete that does not budge one single centimeter, these structures simulate another vehicle more closely.” As a result, experts can determine whether the test vehicle has features like body structures that could harm other road users.

Test scenario Europe

More details

Andreas Schuller
Passive, vehicle-related measures to protect pedestrians can significantly help reduce the impact of pedestrian-vehicle accidents in individual cases. Euro NCAP and legislative bodies have tested this idea in a range of different scenarios. The pedestrian-safety tests are conducted not only with dummies, but also with devices called impactors. Impactors are test dummies that represent parts of the body. The relevant testing area for head, hip and leg impacts is set for a specific vehicle according to defined criteria. The injury risk related to an impact at 40 km/h is then assessed.

Collaboration for higher safety standards – worldwide

Michael Broscheit

Collaboration for higher safety standards – worldwide

“It has to be done hand in hand: Because we are dedicated to the job of actively helping shape vehicle safety in the future, we work as closely as possible with leading consumer protection organizations around the world,” says Michael Broscheit, an employee in Vehicle Safety Development and an expert for global safety issues and technical lobbying. The depth of this collaboration may vary by institution. But all have the same motivation: They are committed to saving lives and making traffic conditions safer.

 

Audi is particularly interested in two aspects of this collaboration. “Our first priority is to be involved at an early stage because we do not want to be surprised by new requirements later on,” Michael Broscheit says. “After all, it takes several years to develop a new vehicle. We can use the knowledge about future test protocols obtained at an early stage to design a vehicle that will meet the requirements of various organizations in the best possible way when the vehicle is introduced on the market. We always want to be ahead of the curve. So we continuously work to spot and analyze mobility trends and changes around the world at an early stage for the purpose of creating possible optimization-potential scenarios from them. We use this basis to develop new requirements in collaboration with the organizations. The new crash test center in Ingolstadt helps us with this work. It provides us with optimal conditions to test these future requirements.”   

Michael Broscheit
Michael Broscheit, an employee in Vehicle Safety Development and an expert for global safety issues and technical lobbying, AUDI AG

The company’s second priority is its desire for the stipulations in the test protocols to be used to help minimize the effect of accidents. “We believe this information does so when scientific findings about the causes and consequences of accidents is considered in the requirements of organizations and the test protocols are updated to reflect this knowledge,” Michael Broscheit says. Audi also contributes the knowledge that the Audi Accident Research Unit (AARU) has gained to its discussions with consumer protection organizations for this purpose. The AARU, which was established in 1998, works with physicians and psychologists at the University Medical Center in Regensburg to analyze real traffic accidents and develop optimization potential with the help of these scientific findings. “We naturally share the findings made by the AARU – most recently with CATARC 8 in China. Audi recently became a member of the expert committee at the testing organization there – one of the first Western companies to do so.”

Launch at the right time

In the months ahead, the vehicle safety teams will intensively get to know and use the new crash hall in Ingolstadt. After all: “Audi will introduce many new models in 2024 and 2025,” says Martin Friedrichsen, the Head of Vehicle Safety. “This means one thing for us: A new vehicle must perform effectively for consumer protection organizations within short intervals. For this reason, our new vehicle safety center has opened at exactly the right time.”

Do you want to know more about this topic?

Oliver Schlicht and Franz Fürst give Brigitte Theile a look behind the scenes at Audi’s new vehicle safety center.

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