How Honda R&D Engineers Safer Structures

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How Honda R&D Engineers Safer Structures

Gary S. Vasilash –

March 17, 2014

This is the body-in-white, colorful though it may be, of the 2014 Acura MDX:

The reason it is so colorfully painted is to emphasize the areas where advanced steels are used, and how they are used, to help make the Acura MDX capable of handling serious impacts, even the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap front crash test (in which a vehicle traveling at 40 mph impacts a barrier that is located such that it is 25% of the frontal area of the car, in from the outside fender).

One notable area is in purple. That represents a hot-stamped ultra-high strength steel stiffener ring, which is said to be the first-ever—as in first in the world—implementation of such a component. Its purpose is to help protect front seat passengers.

Chuck Thomas, chief engineer, Automotive Safety, Honda R&D Americas, talks about how they developed this structure, about how they’ve made the car safer while reducing the weight of the vehicle by 275 lb. (one contributing factor that’s visible in the photo but not painted is Acura’s first three-piece magnesium steering hanger beam), and how they’ve been improving the Advanced Compatability Engineering (ACE) body structure that was first devised almost a decade ago, in this installment of “Autoline After Hours.”

This is what the MDX looks like with body panels 

In addition to which, Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press joins John McElroy and me in discussing developments including the GM ignition switch problem (Snavley has been reporting on the developments and the lack thereof), the new Audi A3 Sedan, and much more.

What’s more, Chuck Thomas brought another painted structure to the studio, this one which has undergone the aforementioned small overlap front crash test, and if you want to see how metal can crinkle like a sheet of paper (although the forces are directed in the way they’ve devised the elements of the system, it is not random crinkling like the paper), you’ve got to see it: