Vehicle crash test analysis systems

Vehicle crash test analysis systems

Birmingham-City-Banne-introrBirmingham City University has a long and deep history of industry collaboration to address real-world problems and deliver public and commercial benefit.

Professor Cham Athwal heads the Digital Media Technology research group which developed novel multi-media systems to capture, analyse and visualise data from vehicle crash-testing. The impact of this research was documented in a REF2014 case study submitted to Computing and Informatics (Unit of Assessment 11), achieving the highest rating and widespread recognition as an exemplary example of industry collaboration.

Crash tests are an essential part of vehicle design to reduce injuries to car occupants and pedestrians, and ensure compliance with safety standards, but are very expensive and generate massive volumes of still and video images, and sensor data. Before the developments from this research, crash-test data was analysed manually from paper and film, which was technically difficult; error prone; very time consuming; and inflexible as the results could not be shared readily. The research led by Athwal developed novel multi-media systems to capture, analyse and visualise data from vehicle crash-testing. The project resulted in MIRA’s commercial launch of two technologically advanced products: DataBuilder, for structuring and storing crash test data, and DataViewer, for multimedia visualisation and analysis of the data, which contributed directly to the ISO standard (ISO/DTR 13499) and subsequent versions.

The long-running research was conducted over a ten-year period, starting in 1996 with a TSB funded technology transfer programme with the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA). The project was extremely successful and judged the Best Teaching Company Scheme (TCS, the precursor scheme to Knowledge Transfer Programmes) in December 1999.

The systems developed became instantly market leading with a transformational impact on the industry and were widely adopted by MIRA and Millbrook in the UK and General Motors and Ford in the USA. The system reduced analysis time from weeks to a few hours and for the first time automotive engineers were able to analyse all of the results from a vehicle crash test in an integrated, highly intelligible system.

In addition to dramatic improvements in vehicle design, safety and testing, the research created a start-up company, Pixoft, led by the Research Associate on the TCS project who continued his cooperation with Athwal’s group to refine the system further with greater functionality and analysis capabilities. This led to the market-leading product “Vicasso” currently used by Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors and Ford for crash test analysis, and in other high-speed analysis domains by Duracell, Unilever, the US Army and others.

It has been used to analayse rail safety, testing of aircraft seats and design of airport terminals and government buildings. The routine use of these systems and derivatives by the worldwide automotive industry has supported faster vehicle design iterations and has ultimately influenced the design of safer vehicles reducing fatailites and severity of injuries to both car users and pedestrians.

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