For Toyota, safety comes first. And nothing proves it better than the fact that the new Toyota Avensis has been awarded the prestigious Euro NCAP five-star rating.
The programme is composed of four areas – Adult Occupant, Child Occupant, Pedestrian Protection and, since 2009, Safety Assist. The latter includes injury avoidance and mitigating functions, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (comes standard on the car with the Toyota Safety Sense package), Electronic Stability Control and a speed limiter.
The new Avensis scored an outstanding 93% for Adult Occupant protection, 85% for Child Occupant, 78% for Pedestrian and 81% for Safety Assist. Not bad, isn’t it?
Avensis’ performance earns it a mention on Euro NCAP’s website in the rankings for Safest Family Cars and Safest Fleet Cars.
For this occasion that we talked to the Toyota Motor Europe R&D team who had the scope of its responsibility in vehicle safety development expanded for 2015 Avensis.
“It was a tough journey, but highly rewarding and motivating,” explains Andrea Lucchini Gilera, Manager for Safety group of R&D Vehicle Performance Engineering (VPE).
“Safety performance affects all people in and around the car, and Toyota’s image. There is no way to compromise.”
A manufacturer can sell a car after fulfilling legal requirements in homologation tests. However, this process checks only basic performance. “To guarantee good real-life protection, we take into account additional elements – internal requirements and ratings by external bodies such as Euro NCAP.”
Comprising government agencies and consumer associations, Euro NCAP assesses car’s safety based on a list of tests whose thresholds are stricter than homologation tests. Results are published in number of stars, which is understandable to anyone and easy to compare. In some countries, having a certain number of stars in Euro NCAP testing is a pre-requisite for entering the fleet market.
TME R&D Safety group participates in some of industry working groups which collaborate with Euro NCAP in its periodical reviews of testing protocols and performance requirements. “Through this activity, we try to bring real-life based improvements into the method of evaluating car safety. It also allows us to reflect the future direction on our development,” says Andrea.
“For Avensis safety testing, we knew that there were going to be many challenges: new requirements and new testing method for pedestrian protection, a new front crash test and stricter thresholds for existing tests.”
“Plus, we decided to modify the front seat to reduce weight and cost, while keeping the current level of whiplash performance which is extremely good. We also wanted to implement Toyota Safety Sense – active safety features.”
In 2013, the development activity started. “It’s a continuous loop which also involves Body Design Division a lot. We discuss with designers how to achieve the required safety performance, while taking into account the impact on performance and needs of other development areas”.
Asked about the most challenging part of the project, Andrea named pedestrian safety performance. “For the first time, TME took full responsibility for development. “
“We decided to use CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) simulations to drastically reduce the number of physical tests, and to do the simulations by ourselves at TME. This means that the CAE responsibility was handed over from Japan to Europe. We started by building a number of processes and tools in order to efficiently integrate the new CAE work into our existing workflows. “
Andrea concludes: “Each of us came out of this project with a lot of learning and a stronger sense of ownership.”
“But, this is only the beginning – one step ahead towards next challenges.”