Toyota's Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) puts university researchers and other investigators at the forefront of several projects whose findings will lead to the development of next-generation safety technologies.
"Our traditional focus has been on proprietary, internal research. But now we're taking a more open, external approach to sharing information," Chuck Gulash, Director of CSRC and the Senior Executive Engineer at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC), said during a two-day safety technology seminar for media in September.
A vast swath of research findings will be published on www.toyota.com/csrc as the information becomes available from several CSRC safety-related studies. CSRC's initial $50 million operating budget covers activities for the next five years.
Research topics to be addressed include accident reconstruction and driver distraction as well as studies focused on children, seniors, and other vulnerable groups.
In September 2011, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) launched an 18-month CSRC project. The selected participants will represent three age groups (20-59, 60-74, 75 and older).
"This study will lead to improved crash protection for vehicle occupants—particularly for elderly people—by providing for the first time detailed information on the seated postures, body shapes, and seatbelt fit that these individuals experience," noted Jonathan Rupp, Research Associate Professor in UMTRI's Biosciences Group.
Thirty-five percent of the study's chosen participants will be obese as defined by Body Mass Index calculations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the general population includes obese people, current adult crash test dummies reflect people with a normal-range BMI.
The study's findings on how age and a person's BMI affect body shape, posture, and seatbelt fit could lead to the development of new full-scale anthropomorphic test devices and FE human models, according to Rupp.
Said Gulash, "This study's findings will really add to our understanding of real-world safety beyond regulations."
Another ongoing research initiative among the current 13 CSRC projects is the development of FE models for a 10-year-old child and an elderly female by Wayne State University (WSU) researchers.
Supporting the need for these specific FE human models are U.S. statistics that indicate children and elderly persons are more apt to suffer injuries in a vehicle accident.
According to Haojie Mao, Post-doctorate Fellow in WSU's Bioengineering Center, "We'll start with a 10-year-old child model—the shape and size of the model based on measurements from both boys and girls—and we'll work toward developing other ages of children models in the future."
The 10-year-old child and the elderly female models will have a detailed skeleton structure that includes skull, spine, rib cage, pelvis, and bones. Major internal organs, such as the brain, heart, aorta, lung, liver, and kidneys, as well as muscles, ligaments, tissues, and skin, will be represented in the models.
Mao expects it will take researchers 4½ years to complete the 10-year-old child and elderly female FE model project.
"The most challenging part in developing children and elderly female models are how to use numerical methods to accurately represent the delicate interactions among different human body components and different body tissues," said Mao.
In developing the elderly female FE model, specific age-related factors, such as rib cage angle and bone osteoporosis, need to be addressed.
"For children, we need to pay much attention to growth-related facts, such as growth plates in bones, proportions of skull and face, as well as rib cage shape and angle," Mao explained.
In November 2010, Toyota released the fourth version of its Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS) simulation software.
"There are no 10-year-old and senior female models in THUMS yet, and that is why it is very important for us to develop these two models," said Mao.
After the 10-year-old and elderly female models are developed, computer simulation will depict how a safety restraint system affects a virtual model's responses during a vehicle crash.
"The more we understand human body responses, the better we can protect them," Mao said.
To date, other groups involved in CSRC projects are Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, the Transportation Active Safety Institute at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.
Said Gulash, "Safety research is the primary intent of CSRC with the secondary goal of driving innovation within Toyota as well as the industry."