It may look just like any other scrap vehicle, but this remarkable reusable car is helping firefighters learn crucial life-saving techniques
No, we’re not revealing an exclusive shot of a new convertible Toyota Avensis. This roofless model is known as the Transformer Car and arrived in Moldova over the summer, along with other emergency equipment, thanks to Operation Florian, a charity set up by British firefighters to provide equipment and training to fire services around the world.
The Transformer Car has been designed to help firefighters learn techniques such as roof and door removal, dash lift, B-pillar folds and glass removal in the case of a road traffic accident. Uniquely, the Transformer Car can be reassembled for re-use. Of course, it’s not as effective for training as physically cutting up a car, but the hinged design provides a reusable resource to develop basic skills and awareness, particularly as scrap cars in some countries can be prohibitively expensive.
The idea is supported by the Toyota Fund for Europe and first developed at the engineering department at Derby University. One of the former students there, Ajay Singh Whaid, has also been involved in another vehicle safety project – this time focusing on the airbag system.
The SES (safety engineering simulator) is another modified Avensis donated by Toyota UK, which helps the emergency services learn how to deal with different types of airbags, side-impact protection systems, and active head rests when they attend the scene of an accident.
“After a road traffic collision, the vehicle safety features that protect the occupants can also put the emergency services at risk,” says Whaid. “Not every airbag may have been deployed during the accident, but these could be activated when firefighters start cutting through the pillars. Airbags are violent explosions and could injure a paramedic, for example, if they were inside caring for the occupants.”
Ajay’s solution is a training vehicle that demonstrates the position of the range of airbags in the Avensis. And, just like the Transformer Car, it’s reusable.
“Airbags are activated using a chemical charge and can only be used once,” says Whaid. “However, we dismantled the airbags, strengthened the stitching and welds, and came up with a system that uses compressed air to inflate them. This way, they deploy with close to the speed of a normal airbag, but we can simply fold them and reposition them.”
Currently, the car is being used by the Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service for its own training as well as raising awareness with schools and the general public.