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TPI Composites General Manager Kevin Weldi poses with the new Humvee  (Source: Associated Press)
New composite Humvees shed 900 pounds of weight

Humvees are synonymous with transporting troops on the ground during times of war. The ubiquitous workhorses are also pretty lacking when it comes to protection from enemy fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The U.S. Army in conjunction with AM General Corp. and TPI Composites Inc. are looking to composite materials to give its soldiers a better chance at surviving treacherous working conditions on Iraq.

Its latest test bed is a Humvee that features a frame and body made of composite materials. Resin material is used to bond together balsa wood, carbon reinforcements, fiberglass and foam. The use of composite materials on the Humvee shaves 900 pounds off the usual 10,000 to 12,000 pound vehicle weight.

"We can put the strength where we need it," said TPI Composites CEO Steven Lockard. "Every pound of weight we save, that weight is being added back to the vehicle in armor and mine-blast protection."

Additional armor could be placed under and around the cabin area of the Humvee to protect the passengers, while the composites materials alone could be used for the hood and fenders.

Predictably, the new composite-bodied Humvees are slightly more expensive than their conventional counterparts and the Army still hasn't made a firm commitment to purchasing the vehicles.

With that said, TPI Composites is fully prepared should the Army give the company the green light. "We could ramp up pretty quickly to most any volume that would be desired," said Lockard.

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By FITCamaro on 9/21/2007 9:09:05 AM , Rating: 2
Thats because of all the safety equipment and electronics for said safety equipment. Instead of people learning how to drive, we just cram our cars full of airbags, anti-roll technology, etc.

There was a lot fewer accidents and deaths in the days when cars were made of steel and all you had was a seat belt (if you had one).

I vote for going back to said cars. Then people might actually be afraid of getting in an accident again for a reason other than their insurance rates going up.

By TomZ on 9/21/2007 9:23:10 AM , Rating: 3
I agree with everything, except for the part that there were fewer accidents "when cars were made of steel." The statistics don't seem to support your conclusion.

By Shoal07 on 9/21/2007 9:24:14 AM , Rating: 2
Speed limits were also signifigantly lower across the board, which is directly attributable to lower death per accident ratios back then. Do you also want to drive 35mph everywhere? There's little anything can do to save you once you start getting over 55mph... especially 75mph+ - hit a tree at those speeds and all the steel in the world will still crumple like a can (with you in the middle).

By Egglick on 9/21/2007 10:06:47 AM , Rating: 2
Studies have shown that lowering the speed limit doesn't positively impact accident rates. I also highly doubt that the material of a vehicles body has any effect on whether you crash said vehicle.

I think higher accident rates are mainly the result of significantly more cars and people on the road.

By CascadingDarkness on 9/21/2007 1:33:59 PM , Rating: 2
I think higher accident rates are mainly the result of significantly more cars and people on the road.

This statement is totally opposite.

The word rate would imply a scale or percentage. I would expect the number of accidents to increase with amount of cars. While the rate (percentage), of say, accidents per thousand, decreases with safety improvements increase.

By Egglick on 9/22/2007 12:15:59 AM , Rating: 3
When you reach a point where there is overcrowding, traffic jams, and roads which weren't built to handle this amount of increased traffic, the rate will go up as well as the number .

By acer905 on 9/21/2007 10:09:17 AM , Rating: 2
Ahh yes, back to the trees again. I propose 2 situations for the masses to chose between. A) get rid of all trees within 100' of all roads. or B) along every road make a wall lined with very very soft cushioning foam so that the cars simply come to a gentle stop.

By FITCamaro on 9/21/2007 10:30:01 AM , Rating: 2
The point is that people feel too safe these days in cars. No one is afraid of getting in accidents because the idea is that all this modern safety equipment will protect you. I want all that taken away and people to actually respect the road again. If you're in a metal can without airbags, ABS, anti-roll, traction control, etc. you're going to drive better since theres actual fear that you could get hurt. Say what you want about fear but its a strong motivator to do the right thing, regardless of the situation.

Modern technology has taken away a lot of the feel of the road that used to be there. You don't know when you're starting to push your car too hard anymore since the electronics tries to cover it up and handle it itself. Then by the time the computer realizes it can't handle it, you're spinning or sliding out of control.

I'm not saying technology shouldn't be used to save lives, but we've taken safety systems to where its more important to have the safety system than it is to just be a good driver and not need it. The only fear most people have of accidents any more is that their premiums will go up and they might have to wait a few weeks for their car to get fixed.

By chsh1ca on 9/21/2007 10:56:22 AM , Rating: 4
The only problem with that is that not everyone is going to be a good driver. My best day of driving may be better or worse than another person's best day of driving, and ultimately given the rather enormous unknown that is how other people are acting around you I think it's far better to have the safety equipment. You can only really trust yourself.

An friend who is also a Police instructor used to say:
Aggressive drivers don't cause accidents.
Defensive drivers don't cause accidents.
Indecisive drivers cause accidents.

By TomZ on 9/21/2007 11:24:44 AM , Rating: 4 that I would add: Distracted drivers cause accidents.

By DeepBlue1975 on 9/21/2007 11:56:42 AM , Rating: 2
You've got a very valid point there.

Many people think that safety systems are miraculous and will save you always. The obvious problem is that, err... well, they don't.

I wouldn't say the solution is to take away the safety devices, though.
I'd rather have them learn that those gizmos have limitations and that they don't make up for an excuse to drive recklessly "because the ABS+EBD+SPP+CPR+DOA+KIA will save the day".

Cruising at 100mph on a rainy or foggy day isn't advisable at all no matter what car you have, as it's always a bad idea to be driving only a handful of feet behind the car in front of you.

By TomZ on 9/21/2007 12:28:48 PM , Rating: 2
On the other hand, cars today are safer than they used to be, so the feeling is pretty justified. I also question the widely-held belief people are subsequently driving in more risky ways than in the past. Has anybody seen any studies on this?

By DeepBlue1975 on 9/21/2007 8:11:58 PM , Rating: 2
Of course they are WAY safer.
The rigid, non deformable chassis of old muscle cars is safer only for the car itself, but not so for he who travels in it that will end up absorbing most of an impact's energy in his body.

The same is normally applicable to many SUVs and pickups, as this comparison suggests:


In a thirty-five m.p.h. crash test, for instance, the driver of a Cadillac Escalade—the G.M. counterpart to the Lincoln Navigator—has a sixteen-per-cent chance of a life-threatening head injury, a twenty-per-cent chance of a life-threatening chest injury, and a thirty-five-per-cent chance of a leg injury. The same numbers in a Ford Windstar minivan—a vehicle engineered from the ground up, as opposed to simply being bolted onto a pickup-truck frame—are, respectively, two per cent, four per cent, and one per cent.

Right now I can't find a study on what you say, but rather lots of opinions.
IMHO, I think that people who like to push a car to its limits, with a new car will be tempted to drive much faster and push it harder in corners because it's less likely that he'll get "the wrong answer" from the car.
And going and cornering faster, what people are testing harder is not really the car, that can withstand the abuse with grace, but rather their own reflexes and speed of reaction, which is roughly the same as it always was.

Car safety and ease of handling technologies did improve dramatically, but normal people's reflexes, speed of reaction and training for critical situations did not.

Anyway, if I can find a study about the relationship between driving recklessness and "car safety feeling" I'll post it, as it could be an interesting read :D

By 91TTZ on 9/21/2007 1:11:04 PM , Rating: 2
Speed limits were not lower back then. They were higher. The 55 mph speed limit was instituted for fuel safety during the energy crisis of the mid 70's.

By 91TTZ on 9/21/2007 1:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
Make that "fuel savings", not "fuel safety".

By killerroach on 9/21/2007 10:20:38 AM , Rating: 1
You might want to look into something known as the "Peltzman Effect". Great stuff.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan once remarked that the best way to make cars safer is to force drivers to internalize the risk of driving their vehicle by having a sharp spike coming from the steering column pointed at the driver's chest.

In other words, it's not always the car, but how the person in the driver's seat acts.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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