How Toyota conducts its safety crash tests

Ever wondered what goes behind the scenes in the making of a vehicle? 

Well, recently, a group of journalists got a glimpse of how Toyota conducts its safety crash tests.

It is the first time in five years that the motoring giant opened its doors at the Higashifuji Technical Center in Japan to journalists to go behind the scenes to see how their motor vehicles are manufactured and tested before any model even hits the road.

As part of a media tour, I got to witness firsthand an oblique crash test of the fourth generation Prius Hybrid.

The test was conducted in a huge warehouse with a test car positioned in the middle, and bright lights illuminating it from above.

When we were in position, the countdown started and we could hear the screeching sound of the crash trolley being dragged towards its intended target - the brand new Prius.

Then it happened. 

The 2.5-tonne crash trolley came at it at 90 km/h (the maximum legal speed limit on Singapore's expressways), crashing into the front left corner of the car at a 15-degree angle.

With a loud bang, the impact sent the car spinning and all its airbags were activated.

Photo: Toyota 

Once the Toyota engineers gave the all-clear and declared that the crash test dummies had survived the crash, we were allowed to inspect the damage. 

On closer inspection, we were told that there was no electrical leakeage from high-voltage battery in the Hybrid system (of the Prius). Engineers had checked for electric voltage between the plus and minus terminals of the wiring harness. 

According to Toyota, there has been no recorded injury caused by batteries from any of the 9 million hybrids Toyota has sold. Engineers also checked for fuel leaks and there was none.

Photo: Toyota 

While we were not involved in the crash testing (for obvious reasons), what Toyota did allow us to witness was the Prius' anti-collision feature called the Pre-Collision System.

This system automatically applies brakes to the car, should the driver fail to do so, once the car's radar system detects that it is at an unsafe distance from the vehicle in front and a collision is imminent.

So imagine you are about to hit an object or another vehicle in front of you, and for whatever reason you cannot hit the brakes, this system will kick in for you.

While no one would ever want to be in a crash, this safety feature could potentially safe your life.

Check out the video.

Read also: Toy Toyota: Electric i-Road works well as driver's plaything

tayyta@sph.com.sg