Federal regulations in the United States require vehicles to meet occupant performance requirements with unbelted test dummies. Removing the test requirements with unbelted occupants might encourage the deployment of seatbelt interlocks and allow restraint optimization to focus on belted occupants. The objective of this study is to compare the performance of restraint systems optimized for belted only occupants with those optimized for both belted and unbelted occupants using computer simulations and field crash data analyses.
In this study, two validated finite element (FE) vehicle/occupant models (a midsize sedan and a midsize SUV) were selected. Restraint design optimizations under standardized crash conditions (US-NCAP and FMVSS 208) with and without unbelted requirements were conducted using HIII small female and midsize male ATDs in both vehicles on both driver and right front passenger positions. A total of 10 to 12 design parameters were varied in each optimization using a combination of response surface method (RSM) and genetic algorithm. To evaluate the field performance of restraints optimized with and without unbelted requirements, 55 frontal crash conditions covering a greater variety of crash types than those in the standardized crashes were selected. A total of 1760 FE simulations were conducted for the field performance evaluation. Frontal crashes in NASS-CDS database from 2002-2012 were used to develop injury risk curves and to provide the baseline performance of current restraint system and estimate the injury risk change by removing the unbelted requirement.
Unbelted requirements do not affect the optimal seatbelt and airbag design parameters in 3 out of 4 vehicle/occupant-position conditions, except for the SUV passenger side. Overall, compared to the optimal designs with unbelted requirements, optimal designs without unbelted requirements generated the same or lower total injury risks for belted occupants depending on statistical methods used for the analysis, but they could also increase the total injury risks for unbelted occupants.
This study demonstrated potential for reducing injury risks to belted occupants if the unbelted requirements are eliminated. Further investigations are necessary to confirm these findings.