When moving towards unsupervised autonomous driving (AD) and the customer expectations of those vehicles, the approach, tools and methods used today in occupant protection assessment are likely not sufficient. Single sitting postures, limited sizes of occupants and crash test set-ups used today will not cover the situations arising. Fundamental changes in evaluation approach and underlying assumptions are foreseen, similar to a paradigm shift.
The objective of this paper is to elaborate on and concretize the research needed, specifically targeting the question: How do we assess the protection of the heterogeneous passenger population in future vehicle crashes enabling occupant protection in unsupervised AD, providing the extended customer benefits of those cars? This paper summarizes relevant state-of-art research in the area and identifies topics for further research focusing on methods and tools for occupant protection assessment.
Future unsupervised AD cars, in addition to future manually driven cars, are likely to be exposed to crashes. Hence, the occupants’ need to be protected is obvious, as today. The paradigm shift is driven by and relates to the mindset on car usage and occupant requests. It calls for new ways of addressing crashworthiness evaluation, emphasizing the large effort in research and knowledge creation needed, as well as a new setup in procedures and responsibilities of stakeholders involved. It likely requires addressing expanded crash set-ups, taking the whole event into account (including pre-crash maneuvers), in addition to a larger population of occupants, and a larger range of seat positions, seating configurations and sitting postures. A human-centric approach is proposed as the way forward. Being an alternative to a technology-driven approach (e.g. the SAE levels of automation), the human-centric approach sets the human needs and abilities in focus, and designs technology around them.
Substantial data on sitting postures and behavior in cars today needs to be collected and analyzed, to enhance the interpretation of existing real world data and to form the knowledge foundation towards the future challenges. Furthermore, user studies of future expectations are desired, especially in the light of changes in mobility trends. Simplified crash test dummy designs will not be sufficient. There is a need of continuous development of today’s human body models facilitating the expansion in sitting postures and sizes, enhanced injury predictability and capable of simulating pre-crash kinematics. This includes generation of validation data and biomechanics research on injury mechanisms as well as material data such as adipose tissues. Pediatric occupant tools need special attention, in addition to investigating and cooperating around the protection of children in future cars.
In order not to be a stopper for enabling the customer benefits in the development of autonomous drive, the occupant protection challenges need to be addressed. This paper discusses some different aspects of this, however being a paradigm shift, a common discussion and cooperation among stakeholders is needed to cover the whole spectra of aspects.