Sustainability 2011/12

Vehicle Safety

Collaborative Efforts

Ford Motor Company continues to collaborate with other automotive companies on precompetitive safety projects to enhance the safety of the driving experience and develop future technologies. The connected vehicles case study describes several of these collaborations, including the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership and Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Consortium, among others. This section includes two other major examples: The U.S. Council for Automotive Research and our university partnerships.

U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR)

Ford collaborates with General Motors and Chrysler through USCAR’s various safety-related working groups, committees and councils. These include the Safety Technical Leadership Council (Safety TLC), the Occupant Safety Research Partnership (OSRP) and the Crash Safety Working Group (CSWG).

A number of years ago, the OSRP initiated the development of WorldSID, a male side-impact dummy that is recognized as the most advanced crash-test dummy ever created. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that the biofidelity of WorldSID is better than that of the dummy in the current side-impact regulation. And, WorldSID is the first side-impact dummy with the potential to be commonly used in side-impact regulations around the world.

In 2010, the OSRP designed tools and procedures for evaluating testing devices to measure pedestrian lower-leg impact; these devices could become the standard in future vehicle-to-pedestrian impact testing. In 2011, the OSRP released information aimed at helping researchers and suppliers verify and validate “out-of-position” occupant-protection results in crash simulations.

The CSWG conducts and directs precompetitive research on crash-related safety issues, with a current focus on issues associated with aspects of advanced, alternate-fueled, energy-efficient vehicles. Recently, this working group completed a study relating to the testing of advanced batteries used for applications in electric passenger vehicles. The study included examining vehicle crash data for frontal, frontal offset, side and rear impacts. The CSWG documented the findings in a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) technical paper that will be presented at the 2012 SAE World Congress.

University Partnerships

Ford increasingly collaborates with university partners on a wide range of research projects, including research into advanced safety technologies. In recent years, we have fine-tuned the objectives of our grant-providing University Research Program (URP), moving away from exploratory, long-term research and toward highly collaborative projects focused on innovations with more near- and mid-term implementation potential.

In 2010, Ford awarded 13 new URP grants to 12 universities around the globe. Recipient schools included, for example, Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan; Stanford University in Palo Alto, California; RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany; and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. These Ford URP projects add to an active research portfolio that now comprises 30 studies in partnership with 26 universities globally. More URP proposals from various universities globally and covering a wide spectrum of engineering disciplines are to be awarded in 2012.

In addition to the URP projects, Ford has major research alliances with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Michigan and Northwestern University.

Safety is a central thrust in many of these collaborative university programs. The following are some examples of current projects:

  • Projects within the Ford–MIT alliance are yielding progress in areas of vehicle autonomy and active safety, including computer vision, lane keeping, vehicle controls, obstacle detection and avoidance, and accurately assessing the driver’s interaction with the vehicle. One project aims to assess the role of accident avoidance technologies, features and functions in reducing driving-related stresses and enhancing driver wellness.
  • At Auburn University, Ford has an ongoing project to conduct “sensor fusion” – that is, to coordinate between Global Positioning System sensors and the motion sensors in a vehicle’s stability control systems, to predict when a driver is about to lose control. The ultimate goal is to use satellites to feed data to a vehicle’s electronic stability control system, allowing it to adjust and potentially prevent a loss-of-control accident.
  • At the University of Michigan, safety work includes a portfolio of projects on 360° sensing and developing more robust and capable active vehicle control and enhanced collision avoidance systems, utilizing both onboard sensors and offboard information sources.
  • A project at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center should yield an improved understanding of human tolerance to pelvis injury.
  • Collaborative work is ongoing with Purdue University investigating enhanced vehicle dynamics and stability control.
  • As part of its accident research projects in Germany, the U.K. and Australia, Ford works closely with internationally acknowledged safety experts from the Universities of Hannover, Loughborough, Dresden, Birmingham and Monash.

Collaborative university work catalyzes innovation at Ford by providing access to leading researchers at the cutting edge of vehicle dynamics and stability control, accident avoidance and driver assist safety technology, to name just a few. Ford will continue to integrate these collaborative innovations, driving continuous improvement in real-world safety and sustainability for all Ford Motor Company products.