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Occupant Protection

Our advancements in vehicle safety involves the research and development of technologies that protect drivers, passengers and other road users in a variety of situations.

Safety Belts and Airbags

Many factors influence a vehicle’s crash performance including its ability to absorb energy on impact and the use of safety equipment such as safety belts and airbags. We offer various occupant protection technologies, such as:

  • Dual-stage front airbags that adjust deployment based on the severity of the crash; load-limiting safety belts to reduce force on an occupant’s chest; pyrotechnic safety-belt pretensioners that tighten the belts in the event of crash; side airbags and curtains for side impact crashes; and Safety Canopy side curtains that deploy in both side impacts and rollover crashes

  • Patented technologies for airbags in other locations inside the vehicle, such as knee airbags for front passengers

  • Use of advanced and ultra-high-strength steels, aluminum, plastics and composites in vehicle structures to work in concert with occupant protection technologies to manage the energy imparted to occupants in a crash

Precompetitive Projects and Partnerships

We collaborate with other automakers to enhance the safety of vehicle occupants, and often publish the results in peer-reviewed journals and scientific publications. We work alongside General Motors and Fiat Chrysler through the various working groups and committees of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), and join forces with other manufacturers through the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance), the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Research into Occupant Protection

We have teamed up with universities in many areas through our Alliance partner universities1 to conduct vehicle safety and occupant protection research.

  • Using real-world crash data and developing computer models to estimate the effects of demographic trends (e.g., occupant age and weight) and vehicle characteristics (e.g., size and weight) on future vehicle safety

  • Developing and using advanced human body computer models that reflect changing global demographics to investigate the specific needs of elderly and obese occupants, and to research possible countermeasures

  • Working with industry to evaluate the biofidelity, repeatability, reproducibility and durability of next-generation anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs) – including a small-size female and two mid-size male ATDs for testing front and side impacts – so that they more closely simulate the responses of human occupants in crashes

  • Ensuring emerging alternative fuel technology systems perform as intended during a vehicle crash

  • With USCAR, we conducted a literature research and meta-analysis project on crash avoidance technologies, including but not limited to advanced driver assist technologies such as AEB, lane departure, night vision and advanced lighting

  • Along with USCAR, we have continued the collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to conduct research and crash testing of live lithium-ion batteries to evaluate their safety performance

  • With Michigan State University, researching nano-liquid foam technology and its potential future applications in both restraints and structural applications

  • With Wayne State University, researching methods to estimate a driver’s age and gender

  • With the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, evaluating the material properties of 3-dimensional metal lattices, produced by additive manufacturing, and developing the modeling methodology for crash-loading

  • With the University of Michigan, researching methods to reduce the reaction time of electro-active polymeric materials for adaptive safety structural applications

  • With SUNY, we’re developing a topology methodology optimizing the cellular mesostructure’s nonlinear behaviors for safety applications

  • We are developing new state-of-the-art computer-aided engineering (CAE), using Iso-Geometric Analysis (IGA), and safety methods for process improvements, enhancement of computer simulation capabilities and to support virtual testing

  • We have created a so-called “pre-crash matrix” based on real-world data to help us better understand and subsequently develop and validate active safety technologies