Steel is enabling stronger vehicle structures for improved crash safety

As with any kind of vehicle on our roads, autonomous vehicles must meet global crash safety standards. They must also meet consumer and stakeholder expectations for a cost-effective, sustainable and comfortable journey. These vehicles must be designed from materials which are strong enough to protect passengers in the event of a crash. However, they must also be as lightweight to ensure efficient performance.

The Steel E-Motive program is using Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) in the vehicle body and structure to give the desired strength without compromising weight, affordability, or sustainability.

Why is structural strength important for autonomous vehicles?

Safety is high on the agenda for autonomous vehicles with around 70% of consumers saying that they are uncomfortable with the idea of getting in a self-driving vehicle. One of the ways to reassure the public of the safety of autonomous vehicles is to ensure that they are structurally sound in the event of a crash.

All vehicles on our roads must adhere to global safety standards, and autonomous vehicles are no different. However, autonomous vehicles are likely to have a different interior structure to a conventional vehicle. Removing the need for driver controls means that there is a possibility for front rear-facing occupancy and a rethink of how people and goods enter and exit the vehicle. This poses several structural challenges when designing the architecture including finding a strong material which will also behave correctly in a crash scenario.

Advanced High-Strength Steels can be made thinner and more lightweight whilst retaining strength upwards of 1200MPa.

Developing a strong steel structure for Steel E-Motive

The Steel E-Motive program is using third generation Advanced High-Strength Steel to overcome these structural challenges. Advanced High-Strength Steels are a family of automotive steels which are very strong and durable. They are also highly ductile which means that they will deform when put under large amounts of pressure without breaking. Various strengthening mechanisms are employed to achieve a range of strength, ductility, toughness, and fatigue properties.

Different AHSS have unique properties which can be beneficial to different parts of a vehicle structure. Dual Phase and Transformation-Induced Plasticity steels are used in vehicle crash zones for their high energy absorption. And the extremely high-strength steels such as Martensitic and Press Hardened Steels can be used around the passenger compartment for improved safety performance.

The Steel E-Motive vehicle architecture will also use third generation Advanced High-Strength Steels. These materials can be made thinner and more lightweight whilst retaining strength of upwards of 1200MPa. By enabling the lightweighting of the vehicle without detriment to structural strength, it allows it to operate more efficiently. In addition, the recyclable properties enable the reduction of the vehicle’s carbon footprint over its lifecycle. All without compromising vehicle structural safety.

Find out more about Advanced High-Strength Steels

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