Advanced R&D

Technology companies rely on innovative ideas to keep a competitive edge in the market place. The ability to generate intellectual property, for many companies, has a direct effect on their long term profitability. Computer simulation analysis has proven to be an ideal tool to investigate the feasibility of new ideas and concepts. Simulation analysis can give a good idea about the possibilities of a new concept, without the time and cost involved with building and testing prototypes. Knowing from the analysis what the product can do and how it is going to function is often sufficient to apply for a patent.

Seat Cushion Restraint System

In 1995 a study was conducted to conceptualize a device that could mitigate lower extremity injuries. Although lower extremity injuries are not life threatening, they are often very debilitating and require long periods of rehabilitation. It is believed that bracing the legs against the toe board, during a vehicle crash, is a major contributor to the injury mechanisms. Another contributor to the lower extremity injuries is leg interaction with the instrument panel.

The Seat Cushion Restraint System (SCRS) comprises an activated seat design that acts to eliminate the interaction between the lower extremities and the vehicle interior. It also reduces the interaction between the legs and the instrument panel by limiting the forward travel of the lower torso. It achieves this by inflating an airbag device in the front part of the seat cushion, during the early stages of a vehicle crash. This lifts the legs off the toe board, effectively eliminating the bracing force. It further restrains the lower torso as effective as a lap belt which reduces the interaction of the knees with the instrument panel.

Computer simulations helped to determine design parameters such as timing, raise height and loads. During the analysis phase the initial design concept underwent several changes that were vital to it working the way that was intended. The occupant simulation analysis showed a potential reduction of the lower extremity injury measures by as much as 80% for unbelted occupants. The work is fully described in SAE paper 960503. A world-wide patent application for the device was filed by Breed Technologies, Inc. in 1995 and a US patent was issued in 1997 under number 5,695,242.

SCRS Analysis

This image shows the SCRS (on the right) in comparison to a conventional restraint system (on the left). The SCRS effectively lifts the feet off the toe board and limits the forward travel of the lower torso, reducing the interaction of the knees with the instrument panel.

Side Safety Barrier Device

Airbag cushions that would cover the side windows of a vehicle in case of a side impact crash or roll-over were first conceptualized in the mid 1990's. Soon it became evident that the capacity of existing gas generators and the small amount of time available to deploy such a device during a crash, would put severe limitations on the size or volume of the cushion. Simulation analysis was used to calculate the most effective volume and thickness of such a cushion. When it became clear that contradictory requirements existed, a cushion, comprising discrete pockets was conceptualized. Again, simulation analysis was used to optimize the size and location of these pockets to provide optimum protection. This innovation made the implementation of side curtains practical. A patent application for the concept was filed in 1997 on behalf of Breed Technologies, Inc. and was granted in 1999 under number 5,924,723.

Side Safety Barrier Device
Now, almost 10 years after the work commenced, we see vehicle after vehicle being equipped with side curtains to protect their occupants in roll-over and side impact crashes. Tests published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show their significant contribution to lowering the risk of severe injury in a crash.

Occupant Presence and Classification Sensor System

The Occupant Spatial Sensor (OSS) System is designed to classify the occupant of a vehicle and detect his/her position relative to the airbag. This allows the airbag control module to be programmed to deploy the airbag with a power that is appropriate for the situation at hand. The technology used for the Occupant Spatial Sensor has been invented by Dr. David S. Breed and his team at Automotive Technologies International, Inc. since before 1992. It uses an array of sensors to gather information about the occupancy of the vehicle compartment. This information is processed, using Artificial Intelligence techniques, such as neural networks, to determine who or what is present in the seats. While the early research concentrated on the feasibility of the concept, later work focussed on the practical implementation. The highly creative environment at ATI lead to many improvements to the original concept for which a new patent application was filed in 1999. This patent was granted to ATI in 2003 under number US Pat. 6,529,809.

Schematics of the sensor system and decision processing neural network.

The OSS was successfully implemented in the Jaguar XK8 of Model Year 2001 and has since found its way into several other platforms.