Advancing crash safety research with computer models

Ford Motor Company will bring its 14 years of R&D expertise using computer human models to a consortium of automakers and suppliers as a way to improve restraint systems for all vehicles of the future. The company joins DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, PSA Peugeot-Citro?n, Renault, Takata., Toyota. and TRW in the Global Human Body Models Consortium LLC in April 2006 following three years of organizing and planning.

The nine automakers and two suppliers will consolidate their activities in human body modeling into a single global effort to advance crash safety technology. The computer models, which represent human beings in minute detail, could help scientists determine and better understand injuries that are likely to result from a vehicle crash.

Ford is the only automaker whose full human body model includes highly detailed internal organs, especially the human brain model. Its work on building the human body model in 1993, creating the regions of the body such as the head, neck, ribcage, abdomen, thoracic and lumbar spine, internal organs of the chest and abdomen, pelvis, and the upper and lower extremities. These regions were brought together in 2004 to create the full body model.

Examples of the detailed computer models already developed by Ford which can simulate various accident scenarios and their effects on the body organs

The human body model represents an average adult male and is constructed using technologies like data gathered from MRI scans and topographies from human body anatomical texts. Validation of the computer model is done through cadaver and volunteer human testing. The model includes a highly detailed spine with all the vertebrae segments and cartilage attached, and a comprehensive brain model that has been used to determine the extent of injuries that can occur during a crash.

Volvo, which is in the Ford Premier Automotive Group, has also developed computer models and one of their most sophisticated is of a pregnant woman

Dr. Saeed Barbat, manager, Passive Safety Research and Advanced Engineering at Ford, says that in the future, virtually-pressurized “blood vessels” may be developed to help determine how internal organs react during specific types of crashes.

?The Human Body Model will help reduce physical testing on component and full-scale levels during vehicle development,” he said. ?It will also be used to develop more sophisticated instrumentation that could lead to more human-like crash dummies.?

The data gathered using both actual and virtual crash test dummies will help Ford and members of the consortium develop and bring to market innovative safety technologies faster than ever and in advance of possible future government regulations. Besides sending? requests for proposals to some 40 research and university groups worldwide, the consortium plans to create five centres of expertise for body region models, such as the head and neck, and two centres for full body model integration.

To mimic or replicate specific crash-induced injuries at the tissue level in math data will require more basic research and it will have to take the advantage of the rapid expansion in computing power. The new models will be very detailed and might have a total number of finite elements, 10 to 30 times more than existing commercially available human body models. The use of finite element models to simulate vehicle crash tests has a strong potential to improve vehicle safety and to save time and money in hardware prototyping and testing. But the differences between the human body and the crash test dummy limit engineers to assessing injury potential with indirect gross injury measurements, such as chest deceleration and deformation.

Computer models will help reduce the high cost of using dummies which require a lot of sensors and are time-consuming to set up for tests

Phase One proposals are due by June and call for having the first six human body models (large, medium and small males and females) developed by March 2011 at an estimated cost of up to US$18 million. After the first six virtual humans are created, the consortium envisions a second phase consisting of adult models of any age, body shape and size followed by a third phase focused on developing child models.

Additional funding and sponsorship is being sought from outside sources, including the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Consolidating all pre-competitive R&D activities in human body modeling into a single global effort would save money in model development costs, speed results through the elimination of duplicate work, and commonize vehicle development tools for enhanced crash safety.