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Ann Adv Automot Med. 2012;56:299-311.

Homogenization of vehicle fleet frontal crash pulses from 2000-2010.

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Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia;


Full-scale vehicle crash tests are performed globally to assess vehicle structure and restraint system performance. The crash pulse, captured by accelerometers mounted within the occupant compartment, measures the motion of the vehicle during the impact event. From an occupant's perspective, the crash pulse is the inertial event to which the vehicle's restraint systems must respond in order to mitigate the forces and accelerations that act on a passenger, and thus reduce injury risk. The objective of this study was to quantify the characteristics of crash pulses for different vehicle types in the contemporary North American fleet, and delineate current trends in crash pulse evolution. NHTSA and Transport Canada crash test databases were queried for full-frontal rigid barrier crash tests of passenger vehicles model year 2000-2010 with impact angle equaling zero degrees. Acceleration-time histories were analyzed for all accelerometers attached to the vehicle structure within the occupant compartment. Custom software calculated the following crash pulse characteristics (CPCs): peak deceleration, time of peak deceleration, onset rate, pulse duration, and change in velocity. Vehicle body types were classified by adapting the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) methodology, and vehicles were assigned a generation start year in place of model year in order to more accurately represent structural change over time. 1094 vehicle crash tests with 2795 individual occupant compartment-mounted accelerometers were analyzed. We found greater peak decelerations and and shorter pulse durations across multiple vehicle types in newer model years as compared to older. For midsize passenger cars, large passenger cars, and large SUVs in 56 km/h rigid barrier tests, maximum deceleration increased by 0.40, 0.96, and 1.57 g/year respectively, and pulse duration decreased by 0.74, 1.87, and 2.51 ms/year. We also found that the crash pulse characteristics are becoming more homogeneous in the modern vehicle fleet; the range of peak deceleration values for all vehicle classes decreased from 17.1 g in 1997-1999 generation start years to 10.7 g in 2009-2010 generation years, and the pulse duration range decreased from 39.5 ms to 13.4 ms for the same generation year groupings. This latter finding suggests that the designs of restraint systems may become more universally applicable across vehicle body types, since the occupant compartment accelerations are not as divergent for newer vehicles.

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