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Ford FG Falcon- Taking Safety to New Levels

April 11th, 2008



Designed to deliver real-world safety benefits, the all-new FG Falcon:

  • Is the safest vehicle ever developed by Ford in Australia.
  • Incorporates a comprehensive list of active and passive safety features that supplement the integrity of the all-new Falcon's body structure, including the use of Boron steel and the development of new load paths that direct crash forces away from occupants.
  • Was developed using state-of-the-art crash simulation and Ford Australia's most comprehensive physical test program ever, taking advantage of world-class crash test facilities in Detroit and at Volvo in Sweden.

A world-class body structure and comprehensive suite of active and passive safety features in the all-new FG Falcon build on Ford's long running reputation for safety leadership in Australia.

Developed with cutting edge technologies and utilising world-class crash test facilities at Ford in Detroit and at Volvo in Sweden, the new Falcon is the safest vehicle ever produced by Ford in Australia.

The company's long held reputation for designing vehicles to deliver innovative real-world safety benefits ensured that the safety development program for the new Falcon has remained a step ahead of growing consumer awareness of the importance of vehicle safety.

"Consumers are more aware of the importance of vehicle safety than ever before," said Ford Australia Vice President of Product Development Trevor Worthington.

"As the company that first made drive airbags standard and introduced stability control, Beltminder™, dual-stage airbags and a reverse camera on Australian built vehicles, anticipating these growing consumer demands for increased safety was a top priority during the development of the all-new Falcon."

Key safety features of the all-new FG Falcon include:

  • Head protecting side airbags standard on all models. Curtain and side thorax airbags are standard on G6E and G6E Turbo and front seat head/thorax side airbags are standard on other models. Curtain airbags are also optional on other models;
  • Dual stage driver airbag and front passenger airbag as standard;
  • The first Australian introduction of a front passenger Beltminder™, along with a driver Beltminder™, which reminds both front seat occupants to fasten their seatbelt once the vehicle begins to move;
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control (calibrated for individual models) on all petrol sedans, to aid in avoiding crash situations;
  • A passenger safety cell that incorporates high strength steels, including ultra high strength Boron, to provide extra rigidity, along with new load paths to direct crash forces away from occupants;
  • An intelligent world-class crash sensing system with door pressure sensors and dual upfront sensors, which instantly and accurately determine the severity of the crash event and activate relevant safety features accordingly;
  • ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), to provide reliable brake performance under all conditions;
  • Specially developed tyres for each model that provide improved grip and handling;
  • A reverse camera (standard on G6E and G6E Turbo and optional on other vehicles in the range)
  • Driver fatigue warning;
  • A reverse sensing system (standard on G Series, optional on other models); and
  • 'Follow me home' lighting that stays on for a set period of time after the car is turned off.

"The extensive range of active safety features, including Dynamic Stability Control calibrated for different driving styles based on model choice, traction control and ABS brakes ensures that accidents are avoided wherever possible," said Worthington.

"However, in the unfortunate incidence where an accident is unavoidable, the comprehensive list of standard and optional passive safety features – from the strengthened body structure through to curtain airbags and a seatbelt reminder system – combine to reduce the impact and severity to all occupants.

"Our vehicle safety team, which is part of Ford Australia's extensive Virtual Engineering department, used state-of the-art crash simulation techniques to deliver an outstanding combination of real world safety improvements for Falcon customers."

Active Safety Technology / Features

Every active safety system developed for the all-new FG Falcon sedan was optimised to provide drivers with the best possible chance of avoiding collisions.

Dynamic Stability Control remains standard on all petrol models, while the company's innovative reverse camera technology – which first became available in the Ford Territory – now becomes standard on the G6E and G6E Turbo and is available as an option on other vehicles in the range.

Chassis control systems

With the introduction of the all-new FG Falcon, DSC with Traction Control (TCS) will remain standard equipment on all petrol Falcon sedans, along with an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA).

Falcon's proven DSC system has been retuned to suit the combination of new engine, transmissions and suspension designs and calibrations to continue providing enhanced vehicle stability under all driving conditions.
It also continues to offer tailored control strategies for expected different driver preferences across the vehicle range.

Reverse camera

First introduced on an Australian vehicle with the launch of the SY-series Ford Territory in 2005, reverse camera technology is now available on Falcon for the first time.

Activated automatically when reverse gear is selected, the fisheye lens is capable of providing a 130 degree wide angle view up to 10 metres behind the vehicle.

The reverse camera is standard on G6E and G6E Turbo and available as an option on most other models.

Reverse sensing system

The FG Falcon's reverse sensing system supports drivers while reversing into or out of a parking space by warning them of obstacles at or near the rear of the vehicle. On high series vehicles fitted with the accompanying HMI, the system supplements the audible warnings with visual aids indicating the distance from an object.

The system works via four sensors in the rear bumper. An electronic control unit (ECU) recognises when a sensor has detected an obstacle and determines its distance from the vehicle – this measurement is based on the principle of echo-location.

The ECU then emits an audible impulse tone, with the rate of the tone proportional to the distance the obstacle is from the vehicle. If the obstacle passes within 45 centimetres, the ECU emits a continuous tone.

Driver fatigue warning

After continuous periods of driving, a fatigue warning sounds to remind the driver to rest. The fatigue warning is generally set at two hours but can be modified according to driver preferences.

Tyres

A range of new tyres was specifically developed for the FG Falcon range, bringing improvements in road noise, wet grip, dry grip and handling, steering compliance, ride, rolling resistance and steering linearity.

The new tyres provide drivers with assurance and confidence in their vehicle under all conditions.

Passive Safety Features / Technology

In the case of an unavoidable accident, the range of passive safety features and technologies inherent in the FG Falcon ensure that occupants are appropriately protected for each type of potential incident.

Passenger safety cell

"The majority of consumers equate the safety of their vehicle with visible features such as airbags, stability control systems and brakes," said Ford Australia's Chief Engineer of Virtual Engineering Adam Frost.

"While that combination of active and passive safety features is extremely important, the true heart of crash safety is the design and strength of its passenger safety cell.

"The design of the structure and energy absorbing load paths, the strength of the steel used, and the positioning of the petrol tank, all significantly contribute to reducing the likelihood of injury to occupants during a crash situation."

The all-new FG Falcon takes the structural safety of Australian designed and developed vehicles to new levels, providing occupants with a high strength passenger safety cell that directs crash forces away from the occupants most at risk.

The introduction of a new front subframe and an improved connection of the front bumper beam to the rail of the FG Falcon, along with additional reinforcement inside the front rails, all contribute to transferring some of the load in a frontal offset crash to the non-struck side of the vehicle, reducing footwell intrusion.

The possibility of steering column intrusion is also reduced due to an optimised A-pillar section that results in lower deformation during a crash event. The A-pillar's enhanced design also maximises structural integrity by reducing rotation and twisting during a crash.

Similarly, a larger, stronger B-pillar section and the use of an ultra-high strength Boron steel B-pillar reinforcement provides an upgraded side structure for improved side crash protection – without the significant weight increase which would have resulted from the use of a lower strength steel.

At the rear, the FG Falcon incorporates a significant crush zone as a result of locating the petrol tank ahead of the axle, which was first introduced with the BA Falcon in 2002. The resulting enhanced energy management of the chassis rails allows the rear of the vehicle to absorb high amounts of crash energy, reducing the potential deformation of the rear passenger cell.

Other structural enhancements include new high strength floor cross members and transmission tunnel reinforcement, along with an extension to the rocker panel from the A-pillar through to the C-pillar, all of which reduce the velocity and intrusion from a crash event, while redirecting the load away from the occupants.

Intelligent sensing system

The FG Falcon incorporates the next stage of Ford's Intelligent Safety System, a combination of latest generation safety devices and electronic management tools that combine state-of-the-art restraint systems with intelligent monitoring of crash severity and occupant positioning.

"Highly technical door pressure sensors and dual upfront sensors provide earlier detection of potential crash incidents than ever before," said Frost.

"No other Australian-built vehicle incorporates advanced crash sensors such as those on the new Falcon. Detection of crash situations is instantaneous, as the sensors literally hear the event occurring through pressure waves – before the panels have even started to deform.

"Importantly however, they also provide enhanced discrimination between different types of events to determine the level of response required. Appropriate safety responses for each individual situation are then activated according to incident severity, positioning of occupants and seat belt usage."

With most crash events occurring in less than 100 milliseconds, the ability to rapidly differentiate between types of events is extremely important.

In order to ensure appropriate response levels, 'abuse' testing is conducted on the vehicle to calibrate the sensors not to activate airbags and other safety measures in the case of non-crash related incidents such as shopping trolleys running into the doors.

Airbags

The FG Falcon sedan will include head protecting side airbags standard on every model for the first time. Curtain and side thorax airbags are standard features on the G6E and G6E Turbo and available as a $300 option on all other models. Head/thorax protecting side airbags for front seat occupants are standard across the rest of the range.

A dual-stage driver airbag and front passenger airbag are also standard across the range, with new vent sizes, folding patterns, inflators and increased volume providing enhanced injury protection while also meeting all of Ford's rigorous safety requirements.

Beltminder

For the first time in an Australian vehicle, a front passenger Beltminder™ system is standard on all FG Falcon sedans.

Incorporating weight and seat belt buckle sensors, the new passenger Beltminder™ detects if a passenger is using the front seat and not wearing a seatbelt.

As with the driver Beltminder™ system, the sensor in the buckle informs the Advanced Restraints Module (ARM - the ISS’s electronic brain) if the front passenger isn't wearing a seat belt.

The ARM provides this information to the instrument cluster, which activates the Beltminder™ charm and warning light when the vehicle speed exceeds 5kmh. The chime and warning light repeats every 30 seconds for approximately five minutes.

Since first introduced for drivers with the BA Falcon in 2002, Ford's Beltminder™ system has proven effective in reminding drivers to buckle up and counter driver reluctance, especially if the journey is short and the perception of danger is low.

"The majority of people respond to friendly reminders and the percentage of people who steadfastly refuse to wear seat belts is very low," said Frost.

"The extension of the Beltminder™ system to front seat passengers will increase the acceptance of the reminder system even further and allow drivers to be sure that their front passenger is appropriately protected when the vehicle is moving."

Follow me home lighting

The front headlamps of the all-new FG Falcon temporarily remain on once the vehicle is locked to provide lighting to guide occupants into their dwellings or other locations. The lighting feature provides additional security and peace-of-mind for drivers and passengers.

Safety development

The safety component of the all-new FG Falcon was developed using state-of-the-art crash simulation and Ford Australia's most comprehensive physical test program ever, taking advantage of world-class crash test facilities in Detroit and at Volvo in Sweden.

"Advances in simulation techniques and speed have supplemented the most comprehensive program of physical crash testing that has ever been undertaken at Ford Australia," said Frost.

"Cutting edge simulation enabled the team to accurately predict outcomes in advance of building the first prototype vehicles, while the physical crash program has verified and enhanced the results expected."

Simulation

FG Falcon’s body shell was comprehensively engineered using sophisticated computer modelling, which allowed two full years of safety architecture development to occur before the first physical prototypes were built.

State-of-the-art CAE technology, combined with the speed of Ford Australia's own supercomputers, enabled same day assessment of optimisation alternatives – compared to the weeks required to analyse one physical test.

"One of the real benefits of our crash simulation technology is that it allows us to freeze each virtual crash and view it from every possible angle while we assess the performance of the individual elements of the car," said Frost.

"This would simply not have been possible with a physical test. The ability to thoroughly examine every aspect of the vehicle's safety performance so early in the development process allows us to fully optimise every possible aspect of the vehicle's safety."

Speedy analysis of all results was made possible through the use of Ford Australia's super computers, located at the company's global super computer headquarters in Detroit.

Ford Australia tripled its super computer capacity in the lead-up to the FG Falcon program, which allowed the safety development team to accurately model vehicle details as small as 3mm.

"The ability to model vehicle details with such incredible accuracy results in world-class CAE model fidelity and confidence for the physical vehicle build program," said Frost.

"The turnaround time of each crash simulation is only four hours when implemented via our super computers. To put that in context, running the same simulation on a home PC would take approximately 18 months."

More than 5,000 simulated crashes were conducted for the FG Falcon program, with each computer model more than double the size of prior models – with more than 2 million elements in each.

On average, four safety design optimisations were conducted each day throughout the vehicle development program. Once the physical crash program began, the results of those tests were then fed back into the CAE models to improve the accuracy even further.

Physical development

The FG crash simulation process was supplemented by the company's most comprehensive physical test program ever conducted.

More than 38 different full vehicle crash modes were investigated during the course of the vehicle's development, with 426 fully representative vehicle crash tests performed, along with an additional 600 crash-related subsystem and component tests.

"Despite the accuracy and speed advantages of improved CAE technology, a comprehensive physical crash test program is also an important element of vehicle production," said Frost.

"At Ford, we test for 38 different types of full vehicle crash modes. These tests include full frontal, offset, and side impact – all at a variety of different speeds and vehicle load situations.

"Our physical testing is one of the most thorough in the world with approximately 426 full vehicle representative tests undertaken for the FG program alone."

In addition to the full vehicle representative tests, Ford Australia also undertook more than 600 crash-related subsystem and component tests as part of the FG Falcon program.

"Subsystem and component tests allow us to investigate how individual elements of the vehicle react under a variety of different crash conditions. This information is then fed back into the overall safety program to deliver an integrated vehicle result."

Physical crash testing was conducted at two of the world's most advanced vehicle safety laboratories - Ford's Safety Laboratory in Detroit and the Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The Ford Safety Lab in Detroit that was utilised for all FG Falcon crash modes has conducted more than 17,000 crash tests since it opened. It includes more than 130 crash test dummies and conducts more than 550 crash tests on Ford Motor Company vehicles each year.

The entire facility is temperature controlled, which allows for extremely accurate analysis and results.

"Consistently controlling temperature during physical crash tests is very important for the integrity of the results as it ensures that no outside forces can affect the repeatability of the results," said Frost.

"There are only a few such facilities around the world that provide the same level of temperature control as Ford's Detroit crash lab."

In addition to the Detroit facility, Ford also utilised the Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Sweden for testing of a number of FG Falcon side impact crash modes.

The combination of outstanding passive and active safety features, along with state-of-the-art crash simulation and a comprehensive physical crash test program has delivered the safest vehicle ever developed by Ford in Australia.


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