Holden Runs First Computer Brain Validation Crash Test for World-Leading Study

July 29, 2002 – Holden has conducted the first in a series of world-leading crash tests to validate a computer brain model that will lead to the ‘virtual’ design of advanced car safety features.

Holden and its partners in this long-term exercise, the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and Wayne State University in Detroit, USA, ran the first of five tests based on real life crashes at the Lang Lang proving ground last week.

The loads measured by the crash test dummies during these side impact crash re-enactments will be used as input to a computer brain model, and the injury prediction will be validated against the injuries that car occupants experienced in real world crashes. Researchers will examine the linear and rotational kinematics of the head in selected crashes where the drivers involved suffered varying levels of brain injury.

Holden’s Chief Engineer of Advanced Engineering, Dr Laurie Sparke, said the validation tests were a world first.

“They bring together three centres of expertise – Holden, Wayne State University and MUARC – each specialists in their respective fields. The information each of us is contributing will combine to create the world standard on the effects of car crashes on the human brain.”

King Yang, Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at Michigan’s Wayne State University, agrees.

“We at Wayne State started developing a computer brain model in 1990, but computing power has only just reached the stage where we can create sophisticated models.

“We now need to validate our model against real world scenarios. With this series of crash tests, we are identifying five different severities of brain injury.

“We access the patients’ data in the hospital using the extensive collated MUARC crash data. Then we recreate the exact crash circumstances using the side impact expertise and advanced crash testing facilities at Holden. After that, we input and validate the data on the dummies to calibrate the computer models,” Professor Yang said.

“In the collision we have just re-enacted, the severity of the crash forces on the driver were quite high. However, there was no brain injury. We are therefore validating this as the baseline model. To recreate the impact and conditions of the real world crash exactly, we have copied the size and mass of the occupants, the mechanics and structure of the vehicles involved, the weight and speed at which they were travelling and the angle at which they hit,” he explained.

The computer brain model
The computer brain model developed at Wayne State University has 300,000 pieces or elements that divide the entire human brain into 5mm cubes. Different properties can be applied to each individual cube, depending upon whether they comprise grey or white brain matter, or lie in the right or left hemisphere, or in the brain stem.

Researchers can then determine the injuries likely to occur under any given real-world scenario, depending on the forces that are applied to various parts of the brain at various times during the crash. This model will then be validated against real world patient data provided by MUARC.

The brain model should prove to be a far more sophisticated tool than a test dummy, which is limited to measuring acceleration, usually in one direction. The computer brain model will be used for measuring omnidirectional loads and responses, simulating what happens in the real world.

“For instance, we can measure linear acceleration combined with rotational acceleration, which causes the types of combined brain injuries we commonly see. A person’s head doesn’t just move in one direction in a car crash; there are a number of forces that make it move in a variety of ways at different times,” Professor Yang added.

“Australia is the only place in the world where we can utilise accident data (MUARC), biomechanics (Wayne State University) and advanced crash test facilities and side impact expertise (Holden) together in the one place,” he said.

The baseline validation crash test
The first crash test was a replication of a collision between two cars that occurred in Australia recently. All elements of the severity of the crash were determined to recreate the event at the point of impact. This test presented unique challenges because of the high speed involved – 85 km/h – and the acute angles at which the vehicles met.

Each validation test in the planned series of five is unique, as it is being used to validate different severities of head injury, and each costs approximately $100,000 to stage.

A full set of data from the car and all the dummies will be collected each time. The first test required 11 high-speed cameras operating at 1000 frames per second for video examination and each dummy measured 60 channels of information.

Computer validation for the real world
Side impact research is a high priority for each of the participants in these brain model validation tests. MUARC data reveals that in 2001, side impacts were responsible for about the same number of fatalities as frontal crashes.

“Side impacts are a very severe crash type. If we are to address the far-reaching societal Harm caused by the effects of brain injury, we need to do validation tests such as this which will ultimately help us to provide vehicle occupants with better injury protection,”’ Dr Sparke said.

“It fits into the big picture of designing safer cars. With all forms of protection, there is a combination of vehicle structure, interior design and active safety elements such as airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners which need to be developed as a system to work together.

“ It’s not good enough to fit the latest airbag to a car. You have to develop safety systems in conjunction with the rest of the car, as everything needs to work together in a crash to fully protect the occupants. Safety features don’t work in isolation,” he continued.

Computer crash test modelling – the next steps “The continuing challenge for safety researchers is the development and validation of a human body computer model which will provide information on impact loading to all parts of the body,” Dr Sparke said.

“These tests are the first step in a long journey. The brain injury model has the potential to provide a more sophisticated prediction of brain injury risk than the simplistic measures currently used with test dummies.

“One day we will be able to utilise a full human body model to measure the risk of injury to an individual, accounting for gender, size and age. In the future, safety engineers will use this computer model to design protection for the whole community of motor vehicle occupants,” Dr Sparke concluded.


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