Exploding myths

Automotive design engineers can tackle the issue of pedestrian safety in many different ways.

“I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.” – Will Shriner.

The lawmakers in Europe and the US were concerned – and rightly so. After pouring over the facts, it seemed obvious that some new legislation was needed to reduce the fatalities that occurred when the heads of pedestrians met the bonnets of automobiles.

And so it came to pass that some new laws were drafted and slated to be passed into law, giving the automobile manufacturers plenty of time to design and develop any mechanisms that they saw fit to lessen the likelihood of death from such unfortunate encounters.

The design engineers in the US were excited by the challenge. And they decided to throw every piece of high technology they had at hand to solve the problem. Indeed, when they had completed their design, everyone admitted that what they came up with was rather impressive indeed.

An array of sensors mounted on the front of their new cars detected an impact with a pedestrian. Milliseconds later, the bonnet of the car was fired up into the air by a series of explosive devices. The new design proved itself in both simulation and test. The air compartment created by the raising of the bonnet prevented the head from smashing into the steel bonnet and mashing into the engine itself.

The chaps in Europe faced the same challenge. But instead of deploying an electromechanical solution, they simply decided to radically change the design of the bonnet itself. The steel sandwich idea they came up with for their bonnet had a myriad of carefully placed recesses in it. And upon impact with a pedestrian, it absorbed the impact much better than anything that had been placed on the road before it.

Not that the European folks didn’t use any high technology in their design at all. They did. Their carefully constructed bonnet was simulated many times on a myriad of distributed processors for hours on end before it went into production and test. It’s just that the technology was used in the design and development stage rather than the deployment stage. At the end of the day, what they actually produced just looked to the user like any other bonnet that had gone before it.

I’m sorry to say that because of that, the European design didn’t quite receive the same publicity that the all-singing, all-dancing flying bonnet from the US did. When Joe Public heard about the exploding bonnet, they became convinced of its safety aspects, especially after watching the hours of TV and print advertising that the US company saturated the market with.

Needless to say, however, the savvy consumer that was aware of the machinations of the legislation was quite happy driving around in a new European car that was just as pedestrian friendly as its exploding US counterpart. Shame that there weren’t as many of them, that’s all.

A reader replies:


It just shows that the Americans build clever things, the British build things cleverly.

On the plus side however, when yobs jump on your car (as happened to mine recently, causing £1500 worth of damage) the exploding bonnet will breaking their ankles! That should discourage them!

Jerry Clark