By Jim Kerr

Play poker with an Ace hidden up your sleeve and you may find yourself in serious trouble. Drive a Honda with their hidden ACE and it could help you if you are in trouble. ACE is Honda’s acronym for “Advanced Compatibility Engineering” and it represents additional safety in Honda vehicles since its introduction in 2003. Honda’s safety philosophy looks at ways to improve occupant safety in all its cars and trucks, regardless of size or price. ACE is one of those hidden aspects of their vehicles that one doesn’t really appreciate or even realize it is there. It is built into the underlying structure of the vehicle and protects occupants during a collision.

We are used to hearing about air bags, antilock brakes and stability control as safety features on automobiles. These are great safety features but none of this works well without a sound platform beneath the vehicle. All vehicle manufacturers incorporate safety design into their vehicle platforms, and Honda’s ACE is a great example of how the best do it.

ACE is designed to reduce impact loads during frontal and offset frontal collisions. Just like modern race cars, that are designed to dissipate the loads of an impact through the suspension and car’s structure while keeping it away from the driver, Honda’s ACE moves the impact forces away from the occupants. To do this, the frame and body structures are designed to collapse at calibrated rates. Computer analysis combined with physical testing are used to design a body structure that redirects the energy where it can minimize danger.

A network of load bearing body structures are incorporated to connect with the object the vehicle is impacting. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a Ridgeline pickup and in collision with a small car or in the new Honda Accord and involved in a collision with a large truck – the ACE body structure is incorporated in their vehicles so it will engage with the other vehicle’s frame structure. As well as directing the impact forces into the ACE structure, is also reduces the possibility of another vehicle going below or above the front end of the Honda vehicle.

During the collision, the ACE components crush at different rates to distribute the forces both below the passenger compartment and up into the A-pillars and roof structure. The 2008 Accord even directs the frontal impact forces through the rocker panels and into a cross-car brace so that the impact is spread out throughout the car. The collision forces go around the passenger compartment but not into it. That hidden structure is silently waiting to protect you.

It also protects other drivers as well. Because the ACE structure aligns the impact forces between the two vehicles, the crush zones built into another vehicle are able to work better too. Looking at the ACE design and components isn’t very exciting. To the untrained eye, it looks just like some sheet metal with fancy shapes stamped into them. For a safety engineer however, it represents a unified approach to body and frame design that provides a stiff structure for handling and ride comfort, while having the collapsibility needed during a collision.

Hopefully you will never have to test out this hidden aspect of safety built into the vehicle structure, but it is nice to know that if you ever are in a collision, it is there to protect both you and the occupants of the other vehicle. This is one situation where a hidden ACE gives you the winning hand.

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