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Toyota Announces $50 Million in Safety Research Initiatives

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Crash Test DummiesToyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) has announced 10 new research initiatives it is embarking on with six North American universities and research institutes. In a change of policy, Toyota will publish its findings, in the hopes that all driving can be made safer. Toyota previously kept its research within the company.

Forbes staff writer Joann Muller reports that the research projects are:

‘… a direct result of the commitment Akio Toyoda made to Congress and to the American people that Toyota would advance auto safety research,’ said Chuck Gulash, director of the collaborative research effort based in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Toyota’s U.S. engineering center is located.

CSRC launched last January with three initial research projects, with the collaborators: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Toyota announced the new projects and partners recently at the 2011 Toyota Safety Technology Seminar at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The new research, which will last over five years and cost $50 million, will range from driver education to collision mitigation to accident reconstruction and enhanced crash-data analysis. These studies will enhance CSRC’s focus on reducing distracted driving and better protecting the most vulnerable segments of the population: children, teens, older people, and pedestrians.

The new research includes:

  • A two-year study with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, Cambridge, Massachusetts, that will investigate how in-vehicle voice command systems may affect drivers.
  • A five-year study with the Transportation Active Safety Institute at Indiana and Purdue Universities that will develop test protocols for pedestrian pre-collision systems designed to prevent pedestrian-related accidents.
  • An 18-month study with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute that will explore the relationship between a person’s age and his or her posture, body shape, and seat belt fit while seated. Toyota seeks to determine if older drivers and passengers sit differently because of their age, and the extent to which a person’s shape changes with age, to evaluate how these factors influence seat belt fit. The results of the study will be used to better understand senior occupant kinetics and injury patterns in a crash event.
  • A three-year project with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) that will test and compare the benefits of a brain training program for older drivers. Researchers believe that with brain training, older drivers will be able to increase their field of view, one that tends to shrink as people age. VTTI will also do a three-year study to evaluate the benefits of Lane Departure Warning Systems, and compare the technology across different makes and models through the use of collision scenarios.
  • A one-year partnership with Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM), Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that will develop vehicle computer systems to notify first responders in a crash and predict the likelihood and extent of occupant and driver injuries. In addition, a five-year project with WFSM will combine collision reconstruction data with Finite Element Modeling to achieve a better understanding of how to prevent the number of injuries caused by collisions. This study will compare data from actual collisions with information from Toyota’s THUMS (Total Human Model for Safety) technology that uses virtual test dummies to show how organs and bones react to outside force.
  • A two-year study with the Washtenaw County Crash Data Archive, Ann Arbor, Michigan, that will look into new models for post-crash accident data collection, to help prevent collisions by better understanding information in order to make vehicles and roads safer.
  • A three-year collaborative study with Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, that aims to achieve a better understanding of the cognitive aspect of driver distraction by combining research in driver behavior, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. In addition, a four-and-a-half year study will develop models for children and older people to help engineers design better vehicle safety systems.

Toyota said it hopes to announce additional partners and projects over the next year.

According to Toyota USA Newsroom:

The CSRC … also announced the launch of its new website, located at (www.toyota.com/csrc) as part of Toyota’s Environmental, Safety and Quality (ESQ) Communications website (www.toyota.com/esq). Featuring a cross section of information and research developments from ongoing work of the Center and its partners, the new site will serve as an ever expanding, publically available hub for the CSRC’s collaborative research on automotive safety throughout North America.

Image by Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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