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An effective response to road safety

The APROSYS project held its final conference and exhibition on 17 and 18 February in Amsterdam. The project’s major achievements include the creation of a new dummy prototype designed for testing injuries to small females in side-impact crashes. The new design will feed into the worldwide harmonised standards for side-impact crash dummies.

Margriet van Schijndel-de Nooij with the new APROSYS female dummy © Ahmed ElAmin
Margriet van Schijndel-de Nooij with the new APROSYS female dummy
© Ahmed ElAmin

EU-funded projects can help save lives on Europe’s roads. A crash-test dummy that better mimics side-impact injuries to women, a safety jacket for motorcyclists, new vehicle and infrastructure design criteria, and advanced protection systems for road users are among the results of the APROSYS (Advanced Protection Systems) project.

By also contributing to current standards on vehicle safety criteria, APROSYS partners hope their work will help reduce the large number of deaths and injuries on Europe’s roads.

Breaking down barriers

Speaking for the European Commission at the final APROSYS conference in Amsterdam, , Ludger Rogge said, “The work done by APROSYS and a range of other projects will continue under Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). This crucial funding programme will work to integrate traditional divisions in road safety research into a coordinated approach.”

The traditional differentiation between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ safety should be revised, he suggested. Instead, researchers should attempt to integrate advanced systems in all accident phases.

“The integrated approach means also the inclusion of ‘softer’ sciences in our work programme, such as user behaviour, ergonomics and accidentology, as well as the inclusion of all road vehicles other than private cars,” said Rogge.

The problem of road safety

The APROSYS event © Ahmed ElAmin
APROSYS in Amsterdam
© Ahmed ElAmin

Travel by road is the least safe mode of transport in the EU. Accidents on Europe’s roads led to 43 000 deaths and 1.2 million injuries in 2007. The Union wants to cut the number of fatalities to about 25 000, in part through directed research under the EU’s Framework Programmes (FPs).

While another EU-funded project, PREVENT, dealt with active safety systems designed to help motorists avoid accidents, APROSYS focused mainly on passive systems that minimise damage or help prevent injury due to an accident. The two projects are part of the EU’s integrated approach to making Europe’s roads safer. Other projects, such as CVIS, SAFESPOT, eCall and EASIS, have tackled related aspects of road safety.

APROSYS, a major FP6 integrated project involving a consortium of research organisations, manufacturers and vehicle suppliers from across Europe, ran for five years to the end of March 2009.

“Some of these systems can mean the difference between being cut out of a car or opening the door yourself,” says APROSYS project coordinator Margriet van Schijndel-de Nooij.

New female dummy

The International Standards Organisation has been developing the standards for side-impact crash dummies (WorldSID) since 1997. The aim is to eliminate the use of different dummies for vehicle testing in different regions of the world, which has resulted in varying crash standards.

The use of a standardised dummy would help increase passenger safety by providing automakers and researchers with improved simulation of human responses in collisions. It would also serve as a tool for developing safer vehicle designs.

“Current impact testing uses a dummy based on the average male,” says van Schijndel-de Nooij. “There have been a lot of studies on the average male, and cars can fulfil all the terms of the standards based on the male dummy, but a small woman will still not be protected enough. In side crashes it is small women who are dying the most.”

The new dummy is not just a scaled-down version of the male one. For example, the researchers were able to more closely mimic the way in which human ribs are compressed during a side impact.

Protecting motorcyclists

Thorax protector © Ahmed ElAmin
New protection for motorcyclists
© Ahmed ElAmin

Also on display in Amsterdam was a thorax protector for motorcyclists. Developed by Dianese, a partner in the APROSYS project, the padded vest protects the cyclist’s back and spine in the event of a fall or crash.

The thorax protector is expected to appear on the market at the end of this year or early 2010. The project chose to focus on a thorax protector as not much research was being done in the segment.

Making the passive active

Another new item on display was a car with a bonnet that pops up slightly and an airbag that releases across the windshield on impact with a vulnerable road user. The cushioning effects of the bonnet and airbag are meant to reduce head injuries to pedestrians hit by cars.

Researchers have also developed a sensing system to determine when a crash is imminent, and an actuator that shoots out against the inside of a car door to make it more resistant to crumpling inwards.

A model of a truck with a special front designed to prevent pedestrians who are hit from going under the vehicle was also on display. The new front shunts crash victims off to one side, where they are more likely to survive.

New testing-assessment methodologies

As part of their contribution to testing methods and standards, the APROSYS consortium also worked on some aspects of human biomechanics. For example, researchers studied how different bumper heights can affect damage to a leg on impact. New data and a new leg model will help testers assess car fronts and the types of injuries sustained.

APROSYS partners also developed new mathematical models of the human body to better mimic the way it reacts just before a crash and during impact. The models also use new injury data to improve the vehicle design process.

In addition, the project developed a generic methodology to assess intelligent safety systems, such as sensor and actuator technologies. The consortium also developed generic car mathematical models, a new virtual testing methodology, test methods for vulnerable road users, more realistic frontal-impact tests, and new side-impact test methods.

APROSYS had a total budget of €30 million, including €18 million from the EU. The project involved about 50 partners, including TNO, Daimler, Renault, FIAT, Continental, and Volkswagen.

Way forward

As a result of the two first calls for proposals under FP7, DG Research will fund 22 new road safety projects. The total funding available for the projects is €64 million.

“The findings of the APROSYS project will feed into many of these new research projects,” said Rogge.