of future crashworthiness performance at Toyota, says the best thing we can do in the near future is provide individualized protection for every vehicle occupant, in every imaginable crash scenario.
He’s working on that in a variety of ways, including development of better crash dummies. Through a computational model called THUMS (Total Human Model for Safety), he’s simulating what happens to vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and liver, during a crash. Through the use of an LED-based, supplier-developed, optical system called RibEye, he’s examining deflections inside the rib cage of the human body during an impact. And through the use of sensor-laden dummies with hundreds of data channels, he is now able to piece together a better picture of the damage done to real bodies.
“Some of the crash dummies used today meet the regulations, but they’re decades old,” he told us. “The newer dummies will allow better prediction of actual, real-world injuries.”
Hallman’s crashworthiness work has at times gone beyond the bounds of Toyota. He was involved in the implementation of Federal Vehicle Motor Safety Standard 226 , which mandated a way to prevent occupants from being ejected from vehicles during a rollover. A key piece of the standard is a means for keeping side curtain airbags inflated for a full six seconds, instead of the conventional 50 msec, as was done previously. Suppliers accomplished that by developing larger inflators that sealed gas inside more effectively, and such systems are now on the road. “It remains inflated about two orders of magnitude longer that a typical airbag,” Hallman said. “And it allows for cushioning during a long-duration rollover event. That way, it mitigates ejection.”
Hallman has also served as an editor for SAE’s International Journal of Transportation Safety, and has authored more than 40 articles, papers and abstracts on injury biomechanics and vehicle safety.
Such work is ideally suited to Hallman, who started out as a mechanical engineering student considering medicine as a career. After receiving a BSME from Valparaiso University, he went on to get a PhD in biomedical engineering from Marquette University and even worked briefly as a co-op student for a company that made orthopedic implants before settling in at Toyota. “It wasn’t until I went to grad school that I found my perfect mesh – my Venn Diagram intersection – of protecting the human body in an automobile,” he said.
Although he likes to imagine a day when crashes won’t occur, he knows it won’t happen any time soon. Autonomous cars will help reduce the 30,000-plus annual fatalities on U.S. roads today, he says, but they won’t stop it altogether. They will need to co-exist with human drivers for decades, resulting in a continuing element of unpredictability in the crash equation. Moreover, autonomous occupants might not be as easily protected as today’s belted drivers. “If customers expect a great deal of flexibility in terms of what kinds of activities they can partake in in an autonomous vehicle, then we’ll need to consider safety in all of those new scenarios,” Hallman said.
For that reason,