How Our Posture Can Help In Research Of Car Safety Systems

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How we sit in cars is helping us research new safety tests and design enhanced restraint systems for automated vehicles.

Jason Hallman, a Principal Engineer at the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center, is leading research that explores how passengers change positions and postures over the course of a drive and in emergency situations.

In this interview, he discusses how his research is helping inform the next generation of safety restraint design.

What issue are you trying to address with your research? Our goal is to understand what people do in their cars when they are not driving as we consider our approach to passenger safety designs in automated cars.

Current passenger safety regulations and ratings require that crash dummies remain in an upright posture, but vehicle passengers actually engage in a variety of activities in their seats, including checking their cellphones, eating, drinking, and conversing with other passengers.

My research examines different passenger positions to help inform the development of new tests, technologies, and tools that may enhance safety for passengers in future automated vehicles.

How did you examine the various positions that passengers take in their cars? What have you discovered in your findings? Working with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, we installed video cameras in 75 vehicles to monitor the postures of over 300 front-seat passengers and observe how their postures changed over the course of almost 3,000 trips.

We found that behaviors vary depending on the length of the trip. On longer trips, the likelihood that someone will recline in their seat increases, while during shorter trips, conversations are more likely to take place.

How would you apply your findings to future products? Our data could be used with Toyota’s Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS), which is a tool used across the industry to simulate human body injuries caused by vehicle collisions on computer-based models.

Toyota has announced that this tool would be offered for free beginning in 2021. What other safety-related research have you done on passenger postures? We did another study in partnership with the University of Michigan that looked at how passengers responded to sudden vehicle movements.

This study was designed to mimic an automated vehicle that might use sudden crash avoidance maneuvers. If a crash were to occur, these kinds of maneuvers may put passengers in positions other a normal upright posture.

Using a vehicle designed to collect a wide range of anthropometric data from each passenger, including 3D body scans and passenger head movements, we observed volunteer passengers as they experienced unexpected and abrupt evasive maneuvers.

We found that passengers move in so many different ways during an abrupt vehicle movement that we were unable to predict all the changes However, the information has provided a rich data set that has helped us tune and refine our THUMS model.

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