Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Tech’

13 December, 2011

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 ( 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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15 September, 2011

Chuck Gulash, the engineer who heads Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC), was asked this week about the connection between the Center, which was formed in January, and the furor over unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. The CSRC, he said, is a direct result of the promise Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda made to Congress and the American people.

The CSRC initiative is operating on an initial funding budget of $50 million over five years. As its name implies, it’s engaged in collaborative research with universities and research institutions for development, testing and implementation of new automotive safety innovations.

The research is focused on (1) reducing driver distraction and (2) protecting vulnerable populations including children, teens, seniors, and pedestrians. Research projects range from driver education and collision mitigation to accident reconstruction and enhanced crash data analysis. During a two-day safety seminar Toyota engineers showed journalists how they test and analyze the impact of a vehicle striking a six-year-old child.

The CSRC has already established partnerships with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). At the safety seminar, Gulash announced ten new research initiatives (for a total of 13) and six new partnerships. The CSRC will collaborate with the MIT AgeLab, The Transportation Active Safety Institute (TASI) at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Virginia Tech, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, and Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Gulash says the CSRC intends to publish as much of the research from its partnerships as possible to make it available to federal agencies, the industry and academia. “This model of sharing the CSRC’s Toyota talent, technology, and data with a broad range of institutions, represents a fundamental change for Toyota, moving away from a traditional focus on proprietary research towards more openly sharing innovations that benefit the automotive industry and society as a whole.”

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26 April, 2011

Who do you like in the EcoCAR 2, the three-year collegiate automotive engineering competition that began during the SAE World Congress in Detroit earlier this month?

The 16 teams that qualified for the competition are Cal State, Colorado State, Embry-Riddle, Mississippi State, NC State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rose-Hulman, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Tennessee, University of Victoria, Washington, University of Waterloo, Virginia Tech, and Wayne State.

EcoCAR 2 sponsors include A123Systems, AVL Powertrain Engineering, the California Air Resources Board, CD-Adapco, Clean Cities, dSPACE, Freescale, General Motors, MathWorks, Natural Resources Canada, Robert Bosch LLC, Siemens PLM, Snap-On Tools, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Vector CANtech. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.

The teams’ objective is to design a powertrain that reduces the environmental impact of an existing vehicle without compromising performance, safety, or consumer acceptability. They will explore various powertrain architectures and follow an engineering regimen modeled after GM’s Global Vehicle Development Process.

Each team will receive $25,000 in seed money for their work in the first year of the competition, which focuses on math-based design and software-in-the-loop and hardware-in-the-loop simulation. Sponsors like HIL developer dSPACE don’t simply deliver products and user manuals, but instead conduct workshops and assign experienced engineers to work closely with each team. Teams that complete their first year successfully will receive a Chevrolet Malibu and move on to the next phase of the competition in which they will build and refine their prototype vehicles and subject them to a week’s worth of engineering tests.

Winners of the EcoCAR 1 competition, during which teams enhanced a Saturn Vue, will be announced in June. At the end of the second year of that competition, first prize was awarded to Mississippi State, second to Virginia Tech, and third to Penn State. The EcoCAR competition may lack the visibility of March Madness but the results could be longer lasting.

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