Crash test a world first

UKZN stu­dents make cheap crash test dum­mies for unique taxi swerve test

The Witness - Wheels - - SAFETY - AL­WYN VILJOEN — WR.

HOWARD Col­lege stu­dents at the Univer­sity of KZN last week took part in a world first test of the lim­its be­yond which a taxi driver will lose con­trol of a Toy­ota Quan­tum, and the re­sults have sur­prised ev­ery­one.

Foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tor and owner and MD of the com­pany Ac­ci­dent Spe­cial­ists Craig Proc­tor-Parker said the heav­ens opened dur­ing the tests, which saw the taxi pulled at speeds of up to 115 km/h be­fore it was un­hitched from the tow ca­ble and sent into half a swerve us­ing au­to­mated steer­ing.

To sim­u­late eight passengers, the taxi con­tained four crash dum­mies — one “baby” of 15 kg and three adults weigh­ing be­tween 65 kg and 75 kg, as well as sand bags in the same range of weights.

As is the norm in taxis, none of the “passengers” were wear­ing their seat belts, but once they see how vi­o­lently all the passengers flail about dur­ing a high speed swerve, it is the opin­ion at Wheels that even the sand­bags would strap in for the next tests.

The flail­ing limbs of even a 15 kg baby move vi­o­lently enough to dam­age the face of an­other pas­sen­ger.

Craig-Proc­tor said two fac­tors con­trib­uted to the taxi avoid­ing rolling over in the apex of the high speed swerve, these be­ing the taxi’s rel­a­tive empti­ness and a very slick sur­face on which it was tested.

The eight oc­cu­pants in­cluded the driver and con­duc­tor, leav­ing only six passengers in the 14seater minibus. Then it had rained all day dur­ing the test, leav­ing a slick sur­face that did not cre­ate grip to stop the tyres as the top-heavy pas­sen­ger cell stayed up­right, de­spite at one point run­ning on only two wheels. He said other au­to­mated crash test ex­perts around the world agree the data col­lected dur­ing the tests could be the first re­al­is­tic wet weather test for a minibus taxi in the world.

What in­ter­ests the crash testers even more are the very low cost test dum­mies de­signed by the first-year stu­dents, led by Pro­fes­sor Ri­aan Stop­forth at the Stop­forth Mecha­tron­ics, Ro­bot­ics and Re­search Lab and co-su­per­vised with Dr Shaniel Davrajh. The lab houses the Mecha­tron­ics and Ro­bot­ics Re­search Group (MR2G) Search and Res­cue Di­vi­sion, the Mecha­tron­ics and Ro­bot­ics Re­search Group (MR2G) Bio-En­gi­neer­ing Unit and Touch Pros­thet­ics.

Stop­forth told Wheels the re­mote con­trol of the minibus taxi and au­to­mated swerv­ing ma­noeu­vre was a first in Africa, while the crash test dum­mies are the cheap­est anatom­i­cally cor­rect dum­mies in the world right now.

He said con­ven­tional crash test dum­mies that show col­li­sion trauma costs up­wards of R500 000, but the groups of stu­dent had built a re­al­is­tic sim­u­la­tor that shows tis­sue and bone trauma dur­ing a crash — all for about R1 500 per dummy.

The skele­tons of the dum­mies were con­structed with ma­te­ri­als sim­i­lar to hu­man bone in terms of den­sity and strength and were then cov­ered with ma­te­ri­als with sim­i­lar prop­er­ties to hu­man flesh and skin. The torso of each dummy was equipped with a sen­sor that con­tains a gy­ro­scope to de­tect and record data about the dy­namic be­hav­iour of the dummy dur­ing the crash.

The stu­dents spent all week in an “au­topsy”, analysing where the passengers were flung dur­ing the high speed swerve as well as what dam­age their in­ter­nal or­gans suf­fered upon im­pact­ing with the sur­rounds of the taxi.

Stop­forth said the first “au­top­sies” showed ribs punc­tur­ing lungs and bro­ken limbs.

Craig-Proc­tor said Toy­ota will be us­ing the cap­tured data to make the Quan­tum even safer.

A video is cur­rently be­ing edited us­ing footage from the 10 cam­eras, and both ex­perts hope it will shock those who don’t wear their seat belts into wear­ing them as well as forc­ing their fel­low passengers to strap in.

The flail­ing limbs of even a 15 kg baby move vi­o­lently enough to dam­age the face of an­other pas­sen­ger.


A half-empty Quan­tum taxi man­ages, just, to avert a roll over on a slick sur­face in a unique test.

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