Virtual crash test dummy has a brain

  • 06-Nov-2008 12:00 EST
Ford Virtual Dummy.jpg
The virtual human body model will help reduce physical testing, and it will help in developing more sophisticated instrumentation that could lead to more human-like crash dummies, according to Ford's Dr. Saeed Barbat.

The crash test dummy has an able-bodied sidekick whose internal organs are virtually identical to that of an average adult male.

"We have completed the development and validation of the first generation of the average adult human virtual crash test dummy—the human body finite element model," said Dr. Saeed Barbat, Ford Motor Co.'s Manager of Passive Safety Research and Advanced Engineering.

The computer-generated human model comprised of bones, soft tissues, and internal organs (including the brain) is being used "to carry out injury biomechanics research that is critical to vehicle crash safety. We have started working on the next-generation model, which will be more user-friendly and more biofidelic to predict crash-induced injury and develop comprehensive injury criteria for vehicle safety," said Barbat.

Serious medical maladies, such as "heart-induced injuries due to airbag deployment, liver puncture due to [seat] belt penetration, and aorta ruptures," can occur during a vehicular accident, according to Barbat. Computer-modeled humans can help researchers and engineers better understand the full extent of crash-related injuries.

Although information gleaned from analyzing the impact points on crash test dummies is extremely useful to researchers, as well as test and safety engineers, crash test dummy data collection is limited. "Crash dummies do not have the capability of identifying internal organ injuries or tissue level injuries. They only provide the level of forces and the deformation due to external loading," said Barbat, referring to the vehicle's force as it makes contact with various parts of the body.    

The ability to identify and understand a wider range of injuries resulting from vehicular crashes via computer-generated human models can aid the development of "bio-mechanically sound restraint systems," according to Barbat. And having such in-vehicle restraint systems could help reduce the incidents of soft tissue and internal organ injuries.

The depiction of pressurized blood vessels might be seen in future human body models. "We still do not know how pressurized blood vessels will affect the outcome of crash-induced injury, therefore, we can't tell what level of benefit we will gain by having pressurized blood vessels in the model yet. However, I think that accurate modeling of that part may help better understand injuries like aorta ruptures and the causation of such ruptures," said Barbat.

As development activities continue on the average adult male virtual crash test dummy, so does work on a child virtual crash dummy. "We have developed a version of the brain injury model for children, and we have plans to continue working on the other child body parts," Barbat said. In 1993, researchers at Ford created specific body part models—i.e. head, neck, ribcage, abdomen, thoracic and lumbar spine, internal organs of the chest and abdomen, pelvis and upper and lower extremities. The first full-body model from Ford materialized in 2004.

Ford Motor Co. is a member of the Global Human Body Models Consortium, which was established in 2006 for pre-competitive work involving the creation of detailed human body computer models. In addition to Ford, consortium members are Chrysler, General Motors, Honda R&D, Hyundai, Nissan, Renault, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, Toyota as well as suppliers Takata Corp. and TRW Automotive. "Ford can help the consortium move forward by sharing its experiences with other members and with the six Centers of Expertise who actually will do most of the development work," noted Barbat.

As the lead integration center, the Full Body Model Center of Expertise (COE) is at the Center for Injury Biomechanics at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Hongik University of Korea, Virginia Tech, and the University of Michigan are assisting with full-body model activities.

The five other centers and their locales: Head and Brain COE at Wayne State University in Michigan; Neck COE at the University of Waterloo in Canada; Thorax COE at the University of Virginia (with support by the European Center for Safety Studies and Risk Analysis/CEESAR in France and the University of Waterloo; Abdomen COE at the French National Institute for Transportation and Safety Research/INRETS (with support from Virginia Tech); and the Lower Extremities COE at the University of Virginia (with support from the University of Alabama and the Indian Institute of Technology.

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