In a collision between car and pedestrian, it’s inevitable that the car will always win. Automakers can’t change that, but they are working on designs that will help lessen the degree of injury, such as Volvo’s pedestrian protection hood.
“When it comes to hood design, you want to have the hood structure be energy-absorbing,” says Thomas Broberg, senior technical adviser of safety for Volvo Cars. “It should have a cushioning effect on the pedestrian.”
In any type of collision, absorbing crash energy before it gets to the human body is the key to preventing serious injury. That’s why modern cars crumble so spectacularly even in low-speed collisions: they’re designed to take the brunt of the crash, rather than the passengers. What’s tricky about making a safer hood is that it has to remain stiff enough to open and close properly.
“Hood design is usually two sheets of metal,” Broberg says.
“There’s the one you see on the outside, and underneath you usually have a beam structure, which gives the hood stiffness so you can open it, and it won’t buckle when you lean on it. What’s different with this type of design is that the understructure of the hood isn’t rigid beams that crisscross under the hood.”
Designing a hood that’s safer for pedestrians also means creating space under it. If the hood is too close to the engine, it will deform against it, creating an unyielding hard surface that will cause more serious pedestrian injury.
“We’ve been working with these kinds of passive countermeasures for years, but the laws of physics are hard to get around. Cars are hard, and people are soft. What we really feel is the way forward in these kinds of situations is to try to avoid the collision in the first place.”