“We Want to Be the Leading Technology Partner for Solutions in Vehicle Safety“

IAV is extending its activities in the field of vehicle safety and repositioning itself

A new crash test facility as well as the merging of crash testing and engineering: vehicle safety will be taking on an even higher profile at IAV in future. Thomas Papenheim, Managing Director of IAV Fahrzeugsicherheit GmbH & Co. KG as well as Executive Vice President for Body and Safety Engineering, takes a look at the new focus in the automotion interview.

Mr. Papenheim, there’s a lot going on at the moment at IAV on the “vehicle safety” front. Which changes have been implemented and which ones are planned?

Papenheim: Vehicle safety has always played a particularly important role at IAV. Our IAV Fahrzeugsicherheit GmbH & Co. KG subsidiary, which operates the crash test facility in Gifhorn, has been around for a long time. Complementing this, we at IAV have consistently advanced our development expertise and innovations in this field, and built up requisite capacities. Now we are taking the next step: we are merging Testing and Engineering in one company – a powerful combination for a development partner. In addition, we recently opened our second crash test facility in Großmehring near Ingolstadt. This makes us the only engineering partner in Europe with two crash test facilities paired with outstanding development expertise. So, as you can see: IAV takes the subject of vehicle safety very seriously. And we want to gather pace!

Why is the subject so important to you?

Papenheim: Vehicle safety is and will remain a key element in automotive engineering. The future is set to raise completely new questions in this context. You only have to think about autonomous driving. Today, driver and passengers sit in precisely defined positions facing the front. But as soon as occupants can move more freely, completely new concepts will be possible for the vehicle interior – for instance, passengers will be able to face each other as if they were sitting around a conference table. This new flexibility makes protecting occupants much more complex. Where will the airbag be positioned in future when the seats can be turned to suit any situation? How do we protect the occupants in the many different possible seating positions? Vehicle safety has many exciting challenges in store for us. Because it won’t be possible to rule out accidents in the future either. Consequently, the occupants will still need to be protected – with the new interiors making the matter more complex.

How will reorganizing these activities help you to cope with these challenges more easily?

Papenheim: Since October, our testing and development experts have been working under one roof at our vehicle safety subsidiary – still closely linked with IAV, of course. This merger will give us even more speed, agility and efficiency in the work we do for our customers. And we have some ambitious goals: IAV Fahrzeugsicherheit seeks to be technology leader and be perceived as an innovation partner. For this, we need to invest: in providing our staff with the necessary skills, in innovation projects and in methods, such as the virtual development process. We want to be the top development partner in the field of vehicle safety.

What do your customers say about the new structure?

Papenheim: Our customers have for many years appreciated the flexibility and speed with which IAV Fahrzeugsicherheit deals with challenges and they would, of course, like to see things stay this way. Our customers have merged crash testing and safety development into one unit in the same way as we will be doing. From their perspective, this means that our streamlined new structure will allow us to operate on the market with even greater agility and efficiency, particularly in interdisciplinary projects involving safety testing and development activities. And that’s precisely what we intend to do.