Going Further With Ford Safety Features

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Ford's annual Further With Ford event for the media is fun and informative and 2014 was no different. I was able to attend this year with Engineering TV's Curtis Ellzey. We shot quite a few videos including a tour of the Ford F-150 plant that will posted a little later.

Last year was about Ford's hybrid and electric vehicles (see “Focusing On Ford's Electric”). I actually bought a 2014 Fusion Hybrid. The electric was not available from any of the local dealers and it is a bit pricey. I did get to talk with the Fusion product manager since I need to bend her ear about the MPG downgrade for all of the Ford hybrids. We still like the car though and expect to run it into the ground like we have all our other cars in the past. This one may take a decade or more.

Before hitting the safety aspects we saw I wanted to mention a couple of other neat items we saw and will be cover in the near future. One is the autonomous vehicle testing Ford is doing on the test tracks. The robot vehicles save testing time and drivers since running through a torture test track repeatedly is hard on people. Another is the new Transit that takes their van and turns it into a passenger vehicle.

Glove Box Airbag

We have a couple of videos that highlight the safety features Ford was showing. The first is a glove box airbag that will be found in select 2015 vehicles like the Ford Mustang. It is just one of many airbags in a car these days but it has a unique design (see video).

Ford's Sean West explained that there is space available in the plastic glove box cover that tends to be rather large these days. This provides a large glove box area and allowed Ford engineers to pack in an airbag and gas cylinder.

The reason for putting the airbag within the glove box door was to take advantage of the door itself. Normally an airbag has to inflate to cover a large area and to come in contact with a body. The bags tend to be very flexible and large requiring a lot of gas to inflate. Remember, pressure is distributed evenly throughout the bag. With the glove box door, the bag has two rigid surfaces to utilize that allows the pressure to be reduced while the air bag remains as effective.

Giant Airbag

Remember the Transit vehicle I mentioned earlier.

Well, it has airbags too but the vehicle can have a lot of passengers. That could take a lot of airbags especially for side impacts. Or, a designer could come up with one very large airbag. That is what Ford and TRW engineers came up with. TRW's product engineer, Julie Schoenherr provided some insight into the design and reasons behind the technology (see video).

The Transit comes in a number of configurations. The largest has a 15 foot side-curtain airbag. The airbag is not one simple bag. It has folds and pockets designed to allow the bag to quickly but properly inflate down between the occupants and the outside world. This is the largest airbag of its kind and was an engineering challenge to provide the protection economically. Most cars have individual airbags for each occupant.

Aging Engineers

I am getting up in years and I have parents and in-laws that are older. Traveling can be a challenge but proper design can help make the vehicles easier to use, enter and exit.

Still, squeaky new engineers fresh out of college tend to be a bit spry and enthusiastic. That is great for something like a Mustang but it would be nice to give them a bit of perspective for other types of drivers. That can include older drivers but also pregnant women. There is no one type of driver or passenger so knowing what everyone wants and needs can be useful to a designer. The challenge is getting into their shoes so to speak.

Getting to know the limitations of others is what Ford does to its new engineers and more mature ones as well. There are a host of artifacts to help (see video).

You need to wear these to see how effective they can be. Even the combinations can get interesting.

As I noted, there was a lot more going on at Ford. I will add links to those articles as I get them posted.

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William Wong

Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column....
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