Ford’s new 2015 F-150 might have a body made from aluminum, but as the NHTSA found out, the truck is no beer can. Recent testing by the government agency showed the truck withstood the standardized crash tests with ease, earning the F-150 a five-star rating – the highest available. So how did Ford engineers design the truck to withstand a 40 mph impact impact without pancaking like an empty can of Natty Lite under a pair of work boots on Friday night?

High-strength steel, a built-in roll cage, and supercomputers.

As it turns out, the F-150’s new frame isn’t just for weight reduction or payload capacity. Like all new body-on-frame vehicles these days, the F-150’s frame uses crumple zones with corrugated steel to act as shock absorbers during a crash. The difference with Ford’s design is the shape of the frame itself. Rather than using a simple box shape, engineers added bends at the corners of the frame’s box shape, essentially giving the box 12 sides.

Within the aluminum body, engineers used hydroforming techniques to shape the military-grade, high-strength aluminum. Those hydroformed pieces make up the roof rails and the door structure. A separate process called extruding is used to create the roof pillars and rocker panels, giving the F-150 a built-in roll cage of sorts.

Many of those aluminum parts are bonded together using an equally high-tech approach. Rather than welding, the parts are joined together using high-strength adhesives, which Ford says are stronger than conventional welds in many cases.

All of this technology was tested in the digital world long before the first F-150 met its fate against the crash barrier. Engineers used computer modeling to predict how each component would behave in the impact – even down to the smallest nut and bolt. Check out the awesome GIFs of these computerized crashed below.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2015 Ford F-150’s safety test.

2015 Ford F-150 Earns NHTSA 5-Stars; Here's How:
- image 627543

This overall view of the F-150 hitting an invisible barrier shows just how the impact is dissipated before it ever reaches the cab. The new high-strength steel frame works along side the aluminum body to absorb the forces, acting like a one-time-use-only shock absorber.

2015 Ford F-150 Earns NHTSA 5-Stars; Here's How:
- image 627544

Here’s an underside view of what the frame looks like during a crash. Notice the dark grey sections – that’s the upgraded crumple zones. They work to dissipate the majority of the inertia as the truck abruptly slows down. The rest of the forces are absorbed in pre-determined areas between the first and second body mounts. You’ll notice a hole drilled into each side of the frame at this area. This gives the frame a built-in weak point, allowing that pre-determined area to collapse while the rest of the frame stays firmly in place.

2015 Ford F-150 Earns NHTSA 5-Stars; Here's How:
- image 627497

Ford has been pioneering the use of inflatable seatbelts for some time now, but the 2015 F-150 is the first truck to employ the technology. Working along side pretensioners that remove slack from the belt upon impact, the inflatable seatbelts essentially have built-in airbags that distribute crash forces over a larger area across the occupants’ chests. This lessens the likelihood of injury from the seatbelt. These inflatable seatbelts are offered as an option for the rear seats on SuperCrew models.

The F-150’s steering column is also upgraded to collapse in different ways depending on the driver’s size and seatbelt usage.

Besides passive safety systems, the F-150 is designed to avoid crashes altogether. Ford has added Curve Control to the truck’s extensive list of electronic stability programs. The new system works to slow the truck down during a curve when it senses the driver’s entry speed is too high. In other words, it steps on the brakes when you throw the truck into a sharp turn and induce understeer. Guardrails and fences everywhere are happy.

Ford F-150

2015 Ford F-150 High Resolution Exterior
- image 537937

Press Release

The all-new Ford F-150 SuperCrew has earned the government’s highest possible crash safety rating – adding to the F-150’s strengths as the toughest, smartest, most capable F-150 ever.

2015 Ford F-150 Earns NHTSA 5-Stars; Here's How:
- image 627499

Thanks to 31 new safety-related innovations developed by the Ford truck team, the 2015 F-150 SuperCrew has earned a five-star Overall Vehicle Score in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program.

“The five-star safety rating is a terrific example of One Ford collaboration and innovation,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “Our truck team worked together for years to deliver this accomplishment, using an unprecedented combination of advanced materials throughout the all-new F-150. The 2015 model is engineered to be the safest F-150 ever, which matters to customers who depend on this truck to not only get the job done, but also get them safely home.”

F-150’s improved performance is enabled by up to a 700-pound weight savings through the use of high-strength steel in the frame; high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy in the body; and smart engineering.

A cross-functional group comprised of Ford truck product development veterans and researchers worked to precisely optimize vehicle weight savings and manufacturing design to deliver improved durability, capability, fuel economy and crashworthiness. The team created and patented new structures, materials and joining methods that were tested virtually with supercomputer simulations, then retested in Ford’s advanced laboratories to engineer the safest F-150 ever.

Supercomputers for safety
The F-150 team started engineering the truck with supercomputers before the first units were ever even crash-tested in a lab.

Engineers developed digital safety models with nearly 1.4 million separate elements to examine how even the smallest parts of the truck would perform in a crash situation.

Safety starts with the frame
Safety starts with the truck’s signature, fully boxed frame – the backbone of the all-new F-150.

Engineers added an extra crossmember and increased the use of high-strength steel to improve stiffness, durability and safety – while also helping reduce the frame’s weight by up to 60 pounds.

“The team had to invent new ways to manage crash energy, because advanced materials like high-strength steel behave differently,” said Matt Niesluchowski, Ford truck safety manager. “We found that changing certain shapes led to a weight reduction, while also improving crash performance.”

2015 Ford F-150 Earns NHTSA 5-Stars; Here's How:
- image 627498

Safety engineers developed a patented 12-corner front crush horn to dissipate more energy in a front impact. The uniquely shaped structure helps manage crash forces so the frame buckles predictably to keep those forces away from occupants in the cabin. This is just one of the 31 new safety-related innovations the team developed to make the truck safer in the event of a crash.

Safety improvements to the aluminum-alloy body
Ford’s advanced research and safety teams worked together to engineer F-150’s high-strength, military-grade, aluminum-alloy body structure to manage what happens to the body in the event of a crash.

The truck’s cab features hydroformed roof rails that constitute a cage-like structure around the doors, extruded roof bows to provide lateral strength across the top of the cab, and extruded rocker rails near the bottom to reinforce lower body strength.

How various parts of the truck were joined also yielded safety improvements. In many cases, welding was not the most effective way to join parts, so the team developed and patented methods to connect parts using high-strength adhesives. This resulted in structural strength equal to or greater than traditional welds.

Additional safety features
New to F-150 is an advanced restraint system that includes an adaptive steering column that adjusts energy management depending on occupant size and safety belt usage. The system includes dual-stage airbags and side-curtain airbags.

The all-new F-150 offers the following safety features:

  • Safety belt pretensioners added to the belt anchor side that further tighten the lap belt around front seat occupants, keeping them in a more secure spot early in the event of a crash
  • Curve Control, a technology that will slow the vehicle when it senses the truck is going too fast for a particular curve
  • Available inflatable rear safety belts for SuperCrew – a segment-first feature

Driver-assist features
The 2015 F-150 introduces all-new driver-assist and semi-autonomous technologies, including several class-exclusive features such as adaptive cruise control and active park assist.

Adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support use radar in the front of the truck to measure the distance and speed of vehicles ahead. Using this information, F-150 can automatically slow to keep a consistent following distance set by the driver. Collision warning triggers visual and audio alerts if the system detects the following distance is diminishing too quickly and a collision may occur. It also pre-charges the brakes if the driver needs to stop suddenly.

Active park assist uses two ultrasonic sensors and electric power-assisted steering to help drivers parallel park. The sensors measure the gap between two vehicles to determine if there is enough room for the truck. After confirming the F-150 can fit, active park assist automatically steers the truck into the space, while the driver operates the accelerator and brake pedals.

2015 Ford F-150 Earns NHTSA 5-Stars; Here's How:
- image 627496

Lane-keeping system is designed to help prevent a driver from drifting out of the intended driving lane. The system detects the left- or right-hand road lane markings using a camera mounted between the windshield and interior rearview mirror. A warning vibration in the steering wheel is used to alert the driver that the vehicle is drifting out of the lines. Semi-autonomous lane-keeping aid then can provide steering torque to help guide the vehicle back into the lane if needed.

Toughest, smartest, most capable and efficient F-150 ever
F-150’s advanced materials and weight savings lead to customer benefits regardless of model configuration or engine choice. The innovative new truck can tow up to 1,100 more pounds and haul up to 530 more pounds than the 2014 model, and it has the highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any full-sized gasoline pickup on the market.

When equipped with the available 2.7-liter EcoBoost® engine, the all-new F-150 4x2 returns EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. Actual mileage will vary.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: