The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and its member companies opened the Vehicle Research Center (VRC) in 1992 as a world-class facility for crashworthiness research. Crash tests conducted at the VRC in Ruckersville, Va., encourage auto manufacturers to make safer vehicles, and Institute vehicle ratings help consumers pick the best models for their families. Now that electronic driver assistance systems are increasingly available in new cars, evaluating emerging technologies is an important part of the Institute's work.
To accommodate a broader test program, the Institute is significantly expanding the VRC. The $30 million project will enable researchers to undertake more rigorous scientific evaluations of crash avoidance systems than the current facility allows.
Work is under way on a 300-by-700-foot covered track where engineers will evaluate vehicle-based systems using robotic targets and vehicle controllers. The existing outdoor track is being enlarged to allow more space for high-speed maneuvers. Both tracks are slated for completion this fall.
"Our goal is to encourage adoption of the most effective vehicle-based crash avoidance systems just as our crash test program has encouraged state-of-the-art crashworthiness design," says Adrian Lund, president of the Institute and the Highway Loss Data Institute.