THUMS up for Toyota safety

  • 03-Jul-2008 06:19 EDT
Toyota-Lexus 1.jpg

Toyota’s THUMS computer model provides information on simulated injuries difficult to measure with crash-test dummies.

The FIA Institute and Toyota, along with its luxury brand Lexus, revealed that they have “combined technology and expertise” in a move to enhance safety levels in high-speed racecar accidents.

For the past few years, Toyota has been using its THUMS (Total Human Model Safety) computer simulation system to support its efforts to design safer production cars. A virtual representation of the human body, THUMS can provide safety engineers with precise data about the injuries people might suffer in various vehicle accident scenarios.

The FIA Institute and Toyota have worked together to use the THUMS system to re-create high-speed accidents and their effects on human physiology, allowing them to study the kind of serious injuries that are difficult to measure with conventional crash dummies, claims the automaker. The outcome of the collaboration is now being compiled and is expected to be made public soon.

In particular, the FIA Institute targeted the technology to help study high-speed rear impacts in Formula One (F1) and Indy Racing League (IRL). Toyota says that THUMS had proven “very effective” for analysis of the complex interaction between the driver’s body and the car in a high-speed accident.

Seat structures form an important element of this equation, and the FIA Institute and Terry Trammell, an Institute Fellow and consultant to IRL, have provided data concerning rear-impact crashes together with information on racecar seat structures. Toyota has used these to create virtual collisions using THUMS and simulated racecar seat designs, which are reported to have succeeded in replicating spinal injuries from high-speed rear-impact collisions.

In a statement, Toyota announced: “This cooperative effort has led to a determination of the mechanism for spinal stress build-up—the result of a combination of g-forces and the specific seating position used in F1 and IRL racecars. The research has prompted consideration of what measures might be taken to reduce stress on the spine during rear impact collisions.”

The FIA Institute was established almost four years ago by FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and FIA Foundation to carry out research projects and other safety-led activities.

Lexus’ latest involvement in racing is for different reasons. As part of a rigorous development program, its LF-A concept car was entered for the Nurburgring 24-h race in late May. The LF-A is not a dedicated racecar and only carried safety equipment needed to meet racing regulations. Interestingly, Lexus selected a team of young mechanics as part of the company’s commitment to the development of personal technical skills.

The LF-A has a V10 front/mid engine and rear-mounted transmission with rear-mounted radiators. Top speed is around 320 km/h (200 mph). The car was revealed at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, and its design aim was to build a supercar with world-class performance that met Lexus’ established criteria.

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