As the automotive industry moves towards autonomous safety systems – enabling a car’s breaking system to react to safety threats without human involvement – Coventry University’s researchers are questioning whether current crash test dummies are up to the challenge of modelling safety requirements for the future.
Christophe Bastien, Principal Lecturer at Coventry University, explains: “Current driver safety tests use crash test dummies that do not include the “human” element. Crash test dummies are passive: they do not have any muscles, hence cannot tense. Nor can they brace themselves against a steering wheel, or twist their bodies in reaction to a car swerving or braking. Their stiff build means that they do not have the adequate biomechanics to replicate spine and neck flexibility under low levels of braking deceleration. They are also unidirectional, which means that they are not suitable to replicate complex combinations of frontal and lateral vehicle emergency motions. Future vehicles should be engineered for humans: not crash test dummies.”
Christophe’s research into active human computer models may provide the right tool to assess vehicle active safety requirements, making the crash test dummy a tool of the past. Christophe and his team have validated a computer model to correlate human pre-braking reflex behaviours against volunteer tests, mapping the reactions of a human responding to emergency braking. They are now studying the effect of the pre-braking phase on the occupant’s motion within the cabin. This will inform the safety requirements of airbags and seatbelt designs when an accident follows the emergency braking phase.
Coventry’s researchers believe that the validated model of driver behaviour will inform future crash safety tests and reduce the rates of injury and fatalities among drivers. They also hope that their future work will include gender and age variables to inform intelligent restraint systems, which could adjust the parameters of the seatbelt and airbag systems to best protect the individual.
Coventry University’s researchers have previously created a more realistic test dummy for the aerospace industry, which informed an extensive range of helicopter crash tests in Germany, Spain and Italy. For more information view the “Helisafe project” video.
Christophe Bastien is a Principal Lecturer at Coventry University in the field of engineering simulations. He has worked in industry for 15 years, specialising in crashworthiness computer simulations with a focus on interior head impact, pedestrian protection, structural crashworthiness and the optimisation of highway engineering safety fence systems. To date, Christophe has filed 19 patents in the area of vehicle and highway engineering safety and is currently working towards his PhD in human safety biomechanics.