Toyota Researches Body Posture to Improve Vehicle Safety

Making a vehicle safe isn’t easy, and automakers work round the clock to ensure our vehicles are structurally sound. Seat belts, airbags, and the anti-lock braking system all work to keep you safe. Self-driving cars are starting to become a reality, and passenger safety is a priority. How a passenger sits in their vehicle while they aren’t driving is an important consideration. Principal Engineer, Jason Hallman is leading the research at the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center. The study examines the variations in body posture during a drive and how this information can enhance vehicle safety.

At present, all passenger safety regulations require crash dummies to remain in upright postures when driving. However, regular passengers don’t typically stay in an upright position while driving. Vehicle passengers will engage in various activities such as eating, drinking, and chatting with other passengers. Some researchers believe that these tests should encompass these multiple changes in body postures to improve the design of automated cars for passenger safety.

Toyota conducted a study where they place cameras in 75 vehicles. They used this footage to monitor 300 front-seat passengers and monitor their posture throughout 3,000 trips. Their findings showed that the passengers’ behavior was varied depending on how long their drive was. One example of this was that passengers were more likely to recline their seats on longer trips rather than shorter ones. Studying these various behaviors help researchers develop innovative test methods and safety devices.

Toyota has also collaborated with the University of Michigan to study passengers’ maneuvers right before a crash. If they can identify these maneuvers, they may be able to optimize future safety devices. The research from these findings will provide a huge advancement in safety for the automotive industry and society as a whole.

One way these findings would be used is with the Toyota Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS). According to Toyota, THUMS is a tool used to ‘Simulate human body injuries caused by vehicle collisions on computer-based models.’ Currently, THUMS is being used by various manufacturers, research institutions, universities, and more. Toyota just recently announced it would be offering this software for free next year.

It may come as a surprise that body posture and maneuvers have only recently been studied. However, female crash dummies weren’t even used until 2003. Thank Toyota, for pioneering the research for posture.

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