News at Mason
New Center Lands $8.5 Million Award to Study Vehicle Collisions and Safety
May 20, 2014
By Molly Brauer
The Center for Collision Safety and Analysis (CCSA) at George Mason University recently won an $8.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Transportation to analyze highway and barrier crashes. For this research, the CCSA team will be applying computer simulation techniques to analyze barrier crashes, evaluating vehicle safety including the effectiveness of airbags and occupant restraints, supporting crash simulation and modeling, undertaking efforts to enhance infrastructure security and operating a crash test facility.
Led by George Mason researchers Cing-Dao (Steve) Kan and Dhafer Marzougui, the CCSA team was selected because of their expertise in applying innovative approaches to the analyses and design of highway facilities, vehicles and occupant protection. Due to the complexity of the crash events, says Kan, a large portion of safety analysis work is done these days using sophisticated computer simulations.
The CCSA’s tasks under this award are expected to look at road design and conditions, vehicle design, occupant risks, applications of new materials, vehicle dynamics, crash testing, data analyses and the development of enhanced models and simulation tools to improve road safety for vehicles and their occupants. For example, simulation technology can be used to investigate the crash-safety implications relative to the proposed new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for improved gas mileage in cars and light-duty trucks. While more vehicles are made lighter to comply with the new gas mileage standards, designing lighter vehicles while maintaining or improving crash outcomes for drivers and passengers is a challenge.
CCSA’s work will also include efforts to enhance the security of diplomatic and military facilities. Under this award, the research team will continue to work with engineers and architects to help the U.S. Department of State protect overseas embassies and other facilities. The team has used crash simulation technologies to assess the effectiveness of anti-ram barriers impacted by large trucks. Understanding the behavior of these barriers in such high-energy impacts will improve their effectiveness and design, and ensure they can be constructed anywhere in the world. New designs and variations to address special needs are expected to be evaluated under this new award.
A unique aspect of this award will be the operation of the Federal Outdoor Impact Lab (FOIL) in McLean, Va. The FOIL facility provides a critical link in the collision analysis process by allowing controlled crashes at speeds up to 65 mph to be staged. These crashes involve vehicles hitting other vehicles or barriers. Sophisticated instrumentation on the vehicles and in the impact area provides a wealth of data that can be used to create mathematical models or compared with simulation results. Marzougui notes that such results are essential to creating the models needed for simulation analysis and to prove that the simulations are viable representations of actual crashes.