Toyota expands advanced vehicle safety effort

Nearing the end of its first year in operation, Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) announced four new research projects and three new partnerships related to vehicle safety. The new projects are focused on advanced crash modeling technologies and better protecting vulnerable populations, particularly seniors.

The projects and partners include:

–        a detailed computer model of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) THOR-NT crash test dummy (Virginia Tech and George Washington University);

–        confirming the biofidelity and injury prediction capability of Toyota’s Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS) virtual human model in additional crash scenarios (University of Virginia);

–        researching pre-drive behavior, such as where feet are placed prior to beginning the drive to determine the influence on driver-vehicle interactions (University of Iowa), and

–        studying the relationship between the injuries and age, which could lead to improved safety restraints for older drivers (Virginia Tech).

CSRC director Chuck Gulash says the research “promises to advance our understanding significantly in the areas of active safety, driver distraction and protecting the most at-risk drivers.” He adds that the CSRC goal is “to act as a catalyst for the advancement of automotive safety for the entire industry.”

Though there is no current relationship between advanced CSRC research and Toyota safety application development it nevertheless occurred to me to see what Toyota is currently offering.

Starting with the 2011 model year, all Toyota, Lexus, and Scion vehicles have the Star Safety system as standard equipment. That includes vehicle stability control, anti-lock brake system, brake assist, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, and smart stop, which reduces engine power when the brake and accelerator are pressed simultaneously. Toyota Sienna and Prius vehicles, as well as many Lexus models are also equipped with a Pre-Collision System (PCS); a feature that Toyota says will become more prevalent in the future. The PCS pulls seatbelts tight and applies the brakes if a front-impact accident is unavoidable.

The NHTSA site Safercar.gov (http://www.safercar.gov) gives the 2012 Toyota Prius five out of five stars overall, including four stars in front crash and rollover tests and five stars in side crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the 2012 Prius yet, but the 2011 model was an IIHS Top Safety Pick, earning a top score of “good” in front, rear, side and roof strength tests.

Let’s hope all automakers continue to make safer vehicles.

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