WIXOM, MI – Altran, an automotive engineering-services and R&D provider, opens a passive-safety testing center in this Detroit suburb, focusing on pedestrian protection, airbag testing and interior testing.
The center will coordinate its activities with similar Altran testing centers in France, Austria, Germany and Canada. It also will provide local distribution and turnkey-equipment support for customized applications from Altran’s Concept Tech and Microsys testing systems.
The Wixom center, Paris-based Altran’s first in the U.S., initially will employ 10 people, says Rob Vatter, CEO of Altran North America. Another is under development in India and Altran already is considering expansion in the U.S., possibly in the Silicon Valley region, he says.
‟Here in the U.S. we are bringing together engineering, testing, simulation and test equipment all under one roof,ˮ he says.
Equipment at the new facility includes or will include a universal test system with robotic launchers that measure impact on pedestrians or occupants in crashes; impactor testing equipment for airbags, a bumper pendulum, low-speed crash device, barrier trolley and drop tower. The testing equipment is integrated with high-speed cameras and techniques for measuring, for example, the time a side-cushion airbag takes to deploy.
Some of Altran’s testing equipment is improvised. A baseball with a string attached to it lies on a shelf near the airbag-deployment test chamber. ‟That’s not a baseball. That’s a bird,“ says Sebastian Wipfler, manager of the new facility. The baseball was cut apart and refilled with softer material to simulate the body of a bird, useful for testing the sensitivity of sensors installed in a car’s front bumper, he explains.
The company already is conducting significant work in passive safety for autonomous cars for German and French OEMs, Vatter says. Passive-safety features will carry over from today’s cars to the self-driving vehicles of the future, says Keith Williams, Altran’s group chief technology officer.
‟We (now) think of people sitting in a car facing forward,ˮ Williams says. ‟But (with autonomous vehicles) three kids riding will be different from two adults having a business meetingˮ and such carsʼ interiors will be configured differently, posing new passive-safety challenges, he says.
Altran says it has performed passive-safety-testing equipment projects and achieved more than 240 installations for major OEMs. Its 6,000-plus automotive specialists operating in 15 countries also conduct testing for Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. Automotive accounted for 20% of the company’s €2.12 billion ($2.5 billion) in revenues in 2016.