Autonomous driving and passenger injury risk: experiment and simulation

Gemeinschaftsprojekt zwischen dem Institut für Sport- und Bewegungswissenschaft/Abteilung für Bewegungs- und Trainingswissenschaft und dem Institut für Technische und Numerische Mechanik.

Joint Project between the Institute of Sport and Movement Science/Department of
Motion and Exercise Science and the Institute of Engineering and Computational

Description of the Scientific Project or the Area of Work

Autonomous driving leads to non-driving activities and thus to various changes in occupant position (rotated seat position in relation to the direction of travel; e.g. rotated by 90 or 180 degree, changed head position during conversations) compared to conventional driving. This results in altered stresses on the musculoskeletal system in accidents and during braking and steering maneuvers. In modern vehicles, multimedia systems (monitors), changes in occupant positioning (seating circle) and conference calls can also lead to increased distraction of occupants from the driving situation. These changes cause ”different” and ”unexpected” loads in impact scenarios and can have an influence on the risk of injury. A rotated head position at the time of a rear-end collision is associated with a higher risk of acute and chronic whiplash. Compared to looking straight, turning the head in such a scenario increases the risk by 50% (L. Jakobsson et al.,2008). On the one hand, a changed head position requires a specific activation pattern of the relevant muscles. This changes the neuromuscular properties in the event of an impact. On the other hand, in the case of lateral impact initiation, other muscles are involved in impact absorption as well as stabilization of the head and body. The influence of these changes on the muscle activation, the kinematics of the body as well as the changed load (internal mechanical load) in comparison to normal occupant positions are unknown at present.

Using such a setup (Fig. 1), examination of different head and body positions during impacts as well as the influence off gender and age on initial pose and therefore injury risk is possible. Primary outcomes of the project include the  generation and analysis of kinematic and electromyographic data during impacts (e.g., simulated accidents). Based on these data the influence of head rotation on injury risk during accidents or differences in tissue loading between male and female or dependent on age can be assessed in silico by the digital human twin.

Network of methods and expertise to enhance man machine interaction in driver in the loop simulations in order to assess injury risk during autonomous driving.
Network of methods and expertise to enhance man machine interaction in driver in the loop simulations in order to assess injury risk during autonomous driving.

Strong interaction of experiments and models enables model enhancement and validation. Using the validated finite element models, it is possible to gain new insights into the microscopic injury mechanisms of ligaments, muscles, spine and spinal cord. The results of the FE models can be used to visualize injury risk, body position or muscle activation in a digital human twin.

Joints Publications:

  • F. Kempter, J. Fehr, N. Stutzig, and T. Siebert. On the validation of human body models with a driver -in-the-
    loop simulator. In The 5th Joint Int. Conference on Multibody System Dynamics (IMSD 2018), Lisboa, Portugal,
  • F. Kempter, L. Lantella, N. Stutzig, J. Fehr, and T. Siebert. Potential to volunteer testing using a driving simulator
    with motion capture and emg data acquisition. In Proceedings of the IRCOBI Conference, Munich, Germany,


This image shows Norman Stutzig

Norman Stutzig

PD Dr. habil.
This image shows Jörg Fehr

Jörg Fehr

apl. Prof. Dr.-Ing.
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