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The Audi A8

Understand the design, location, and function of the equipment of the Audi A8 sedan vehicle.

SUBJECT: Audi A8 Sedan, 1997 model year and newer
TOPIC: A8 occupant protection equipment and features
OBJECTIVE: Understand the design, location, and function of the occupant protection equipment of the Audi A8 sedan vehicle
TASK: Develop fire, safety, and extrication procedures specific to operating at the scene of a damaged Audi A8 sedan (1997 model year and newer)

Space Frame

The A8 is the only new sedan sold in the U.S. to feature an aluminum-alloy unibody and exterior panels. The front-drive A8 -- on sale in the U.S. since October 1997 -- employs a first-of-its-kind aluminum Space Frame body technology. The A8's Space Frame construction, one of many safety features built into this German luxury liner, is made entirely of Alcoa aluminum alloy and is actually 40 percent lighter than similar steel frame units. Seven new aircraft-grade aluminum alloys comprise the Space Frame. The aluminum crossmembers of the Audi Space Frame are reinforced in so many areas, it has more strength and collision resistance than a steel frame and is actually 40% lighter than steel.

The Audi aluminum Space Frame also provides passive safety through the uniquely strong properties of its aluminum alloy castings, extrusions and body panels. It acts as a safety cell surrounding the occupants inside. The long frame members in the front and rear are designed to crumple in accordion-like fashion, absorbing energy away from the passenger areas under collision loads. In addition to the strength of the Audi Space Frame, which absorbs energy better than steel, tests show that it also offers exceptional side impact protection. The door and fender body panels of the A8 are also made of aluminum.

Six Airbags

In addition, the A8 introduced during the 1997 model year, is the first car in the world to confront rescuers with a total of six "intelligent" airbags: one for the driver and another for the front passenger to protect them in the event of a frontal impact. The front dashboard structure also incorporates a light-colored 'Knee Bar' to aid in keeping front seat occupants in the correct position as the dual front airbags deploy.

What is vitally important for rescue personnel to understand about the A8 is that in addition to the dual front bags, there are four additional side impact airbags concealed within the seats of the vehicle. These bags are designed to protect occupants' arms and chest from the door in the event of a side-impact.

To protect the side of the driver and front seat passenger, airbags deploy from the edges of the front seat cushions. Two more side-impact airbags are positioned underneath the upholstery of the rear seat at the outboard positions. Small cloth tags, sewn into the seams of the seat cushions identify the presence of the SRS airbags and are visible when the doors are opened.

All the Audi A8 airbags are designed with an artificial "intelligence", allowing them to sense when a seating position is or is not occupied. Individual airbags will not deploy if the seat position they are designed to protect is unoccupied at the moment of the collision. This "intelligence" is one more reason rescue personnel must accept the reality that 'loaded' airbags will be present at your accident scene. Stop believing all airbags in a vehicle will be deployed when you arrive and begin asking yourself "OK, where are the loaded airbags this time?"

Other 'New Technology' features

Interior features on this $65,000 luxury five-passenger sedan that rescue and EMS personnel will be interested in include a unique steering column. Described as an 'electrically adjustable tilt and telescopic steering wheel with automatic tilt-away feature', the column automatically motors up and away when the key is removed from the ignition. Moving towards the passenger side makes for easier entry and exit. This feature may be of benefit for EMS personnel working with an injured driver. Quickly tilting and swinging the wheel and column away from the patient can enhance your efforts to remove them from the vehicle.

The A8 also comes with a power central locking system. This feature has almost become the norm on modern-day vehicles. If operated by first-arriving personnel at the scene of a collision involving an A8 for example, all doors, the trunk, and even the fuel filler door can be instantly unlocked. The A8 system is operable from both the driver or the passenger front door.

The A8 comes standard with a most unusual feature and a first in the US. All window glass is laminated safety glass- windshield, rear window, and side door glass. There is no temepered safety glass on the car. Two layers of glass comprise each window with a solar protective coating and the normal plastic lamination film sandwiched together. The full lamination glass enhances the vehicle's anti-theft protection. Responders should use windshield saw tools to remove all window glass. A spring-loaded center punch is ineffective in removing this type of glass.

Responders should fully consider any risks associated with utilizing these power lock systems during the early moments at the scene. In most cases, experience has shown that it will be safe to use the systems and the benefits of electrically rolling windows down, unlocking doors and releasing the trunk lid outweighs any risks involved. Once doors are unlocked and windows and doors opened, the electrical system should be shut down to maximize rescuer safety particularly in light of the loaded airbag systems that will be present.

Other features of note on the A8 include 5 MPH energy-absorbing bumpers, a 23+ gallon fuel tank, and pressurized gas strut supports for both the hood and trunk. The front and rear seat 3-point seatbelts are equipped with automatic pre-tensioner devises using pyrotechnic charges to pull slack from the seatbelt system as a collision occurs. Incidentally, this car has a sophisticated safety belt system and a special child-seat locking device. Another option the rescue personnel should be aware of is a solar-powered sunroof that generates its own electricity to operate fresh air fans when the vehicle is parked in the sun.

The A8's battery is located on the right side of the trunk. The increasingly common practice of moving batteries out of the engine compartment challenges fire and rescue personnel who must quickly disable the electrical system at an emergency scene. Potential battery locations on late-model vehicles include the engine compartment, but may also be found under seats in the passenger compartment, behind the front bumper or in the case of the A8, in the trunk, .

Rescue personnel should study Audi's A8 and become familiar with the new technology features of the vehicle and how any of them may influence your operations at a vehicle fire or extrication scene.

Task: Develop safety, rescue, and extrication procedures specific to operating at the scene of a damaged Audi A8 sedan(1997 model year and newer).