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Virtual Humans Could Help Mitigate Crash-Induced Injuries


Automotive Consortium Seeks More Members to Foster Global Development Efforts

DETROIT – In the near future, computer models that represent human beings in minute detail could help determine from head to toe what injuries are likely to result from a vehicle crash.

A consortium of nine automakers and two suppliers is seeking more members to consolidate their individual research and development activities in human body modeling into a single global effort to advance crash safety technology.

DaimlerChrysler AG., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Honda R&D Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Nissan Motor Corp. Ltd., PSA Peugeot-Citroën, Renault s.a.s., Takata Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and TRW Automotive are all members of the Global Human Body Models Consortium , which created a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) in April 2006 following three years of organizing and planning.

The consortium, which will share its development plan at the Society of Automotive Engineers Congress in Detroit this week, has sent requests for proposals to some 40 research and university groups worldwide. The consortium plans to create five centers of expertise for body region models, such as the head and neck, and two centers for full body model integration.

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 $18 million. Additional funding and support is being sought from outside sources, including potentially the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

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.

Consolidating all major independent 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.

“The idea is to work together – industry, academia and government agencies,” said Lou Carlin, chairman of the consortium. “Collaboration is the key to the whole thing.”

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 advantage of the rapid expansion in computing power.

The new models will be very detailed and may have as many as 3 million finite elements each. That is 10 to 30 times more detailed than existing commercially available human body models.

“This is a game changer,” said J.T. Wang, who chairs the technical committee of the consortium. “The ability to directly assess crash-induced injuries at the tissue and bone level s will fundamentally improve the safety design of vehicles.”

The differences between the human body and the physical crash test dummy limit engineers to assessing injury potential with indirect gross injury measurements, such as chest deceleration and deformation. The use of computer-based finite element models to simulate vehicle crash tests , however, has significantly improved vehicle safety design capabilities and saved considerable time and money in hardware prototyping and testing.

The virtual humans initially will be used in automotive safety testing but could potentially be used in other ways and industries.


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