A safe vehicle design should minimize passenger compartment intrusion.
In order to meet fuel efficiency regulations, car manufacturers are under intense pressure to keep down vehicle weight. Too often, this has led to shaving weight and cutting corners at the expense of safety. For example, manufacturers frequently use lower gauges of steel for structural members like the body pillars, windshield header and roof components. The problems created by weight cutting measures, such as down-gauging of steel, are compounded by other practices designed to reduce costs. Some manufacturers have cut down on the use of welds, relying instead on an industrial form of glue called “structural adhesive.” Needless to say, even strong glue cannot match the strength of a traditional weld. Manufacturers could save weight without sacrificing structural integrity by substituting high strength steel in place of the low carbon steel used by U.S. manufacturers for structural members. While slightly more expensive, high strength steel is lighter and stronger and can be used to meet fuel efficiency requirements without creating safety risks.
In our engineering exploration of alternative design, a computer program called LS-Dyna allows us to create visual aides such as these comparison videos, emphasizing the benefits of proper welds and steel grades.
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