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  • Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory


  • Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory

    The Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory (FOIL) was developed to promote a better understanding of the complex interactions between a motor vehicle, its occupants, and roadside objects during a collision. The FOIL is a research and learning center that helps researchers better understand complex collision events. It is used by engineers and safety researchers working on roadside, roadway, and motor vehicle safety.

    The FOIL test facility was constructed during the early 1980's on the grounds of the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. Operation of this laboratory commenced in the summer of 1985. The FOIL was specifically designed to determine and evaluate the collision event sequence of roadside objects, motor vehicles, and vehicle occupants.

    Both developmental and existing hardware systems have been tested and evaluated at the FOIL to determine their acceptability as roadside safety hardware. Full scale tests have been conducted using actual mini-size, compact, and mid-size vehicles in both the frontal and side impact modes.

    Full frontal tests into breakaway sign and lighting supports have also been conducted with a reusable breakaway bogie vehicle that simulates the crash performance of a small 820-kg (1800-lb) car. This reusable test vehicle provides for both reduced testing costs and very repeatable crash data for speeds ranging from 35 km/h (22 mi/h) to 100 km/h (62 mi/h). The FOIL facility also includes a pendulum test device that simulates a 35 km/h (22 mi/h) impact of an 820-kg vehicle into poles, posts, and other breakaway support structures.

    Advanced testing techniques for the highway construction and motor vehicle manufacturing communities are also developed at the FOIL.

    Recent and Current Research

    Recent studies have included research into the performance of several guardrail terminals with a small 820-kg (1800-lb) automobile. This study has spawned another investigation to develop a pushover guardrail terminal that is less damaging to the errant small vehicle. Several crash tests in this series were conducted in 1995.

    A pooled fund study into the performance of small and large sign supports was recently concluded. This study tested and evaluated a large number of sign support designs used by the States. Lockup and slipbase luminaires and sign supports during low and high speed tests with small vehicles have also been investigated.

    Newer vehicles with aerodynamically styled sloping front designs can present a problem of under-riding terminals and guardrails. A study was initiated in 1994 to determine the severity of this problem and investigate potential solutions.

    Side impacts into narrow objects are a problem for many errant vehicles. One series of FOIL tests to determine the extent of the problem and look at possible solutions was conducted in 1994. These tests included side impacts into terminals, luminaire poles, and an instrumented rigid pole.

    Tests of recycled materials for possible use in the roadside safety hardware field have also been conducted at the FOIL.

    Current studies include investigations into car crush characteristics supporting research efforts to develop and verify computer generated finite element models of automobiles and pickup trucks impacting roadside hardware.

    The effort to develop finite element models that will predict the outcome of various collisions of vehicles with roadside hardware has generated the need for verification tests of vehicles into non-breakaway and breakaway devices such as luminaire poles and terminals. Supporting this effort will also be a new car assessment testing program that is slated to be conducted in 1996. Side impact tests are being conducted using the FOIL's Instrumented Rigid Pole to help determine the side impact crush characteristics of newer vehicles.

    Future Research

    An extensive effort is underway to develop and validate finite element computer models for simulating crash tests with manmade roadside objects. These include temporary roadside barriers, guardrail systems, crash cushions, roadside signs, roadway lights, ditches, and side slopes. These roadside objects must perform specific functions. They must remain stable in their environment, and perform as designed when struck by an errant vehicle. They must also be crash worthy of forgiving to vehicle occupants. The FOIL will be a key tool in the verification process that will confirm that these systems perform as required.

    The FOIL has just completed construction of a larger instrumented rigid pole built to accommodate larger vehicles in both the frontal and side impact modes. The new rigid pole will be calibrated and crash tests with this device, using larger vehicles, will be undertaken during 1996 in concert with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Comparison tests of the FOIL breakaway bogie vehicle with present crash vehicles are also going to be conducted and analyzed. Modifications of the present breakaway bogie crushable nose configuration will be made to reconfigure it to match the present average small car.

    As part of a U.S. DOT initiative to promote international harmonization of crash testing requirements, the FOIL will evaluate new software for analyzing test data and preparing test reports. This software will calculate the occupant risk measures used by the European countries and will facilitate preparation of data in NHTSA's standard format.

    This information came from an
    FHWA online article.

    *** Any law, statute, regulation or other precedent is subject to change at any time ***

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