“This is a gearhead’s dream,” he says. “At home, I build cars. At work, I crash them.”
Wrecking a ride is harder than it looks. “It’s not just hitting a button,” says Jordan Haynes, a 24-year-old crash-test technician at MGA Research in Burlington, Wisconsin. America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) turns to MGA for data on how well cars withstand impacts. Before a run, Haynes covers test dummies in chalk – to mark whatever they hit in the cabin – activates up to 200 sensors, and rigs 16 cameras to record the crash.
Typical equipment used by a Crash-test technician:
(1) Hybrid III dummies
Crash-test dummies come packed with force sensors and accelerometers to measure strains on the body.
(2) Petroleum distillate
Flame-broiled sensors are useless, so petrol is replaced with less flammable Stoddard solvent. If a car spills more than 140 g of the purple fluid within 5 minutes of a crash, it falls short of government regulations.
(3) Pull cable
A 13 mm steel cable hitched to a 447 kW electric motor pulls test cars forward; it’s released just before the vehicles smash into a concrete wall. NHTSA front-crash tests require a speed of about 56 km/h at the time of impact.
(4) Photo pit
A few metres below the test, 1 000-frame-per-second cameras monitor the car through a 50 mm-thick Plexiglas floor. They capture the movement of the engine and the suspension during the collision.