Hyundai Motor Company has started working on the development of advanced occupant safety technologies to minimize the risk of injuries to passengers in autonomous vehicles. The auto manufacturer recently what it termed the first stage of this development: a control algorithm that is optimized for autonomous driving conditions.
Autonomous vehicles use highly sophisticated technologies like radar sensors and on-board cameras to “see” the road ahead, assess risk factors and thus significantly reduce the possibility of accidents. However, researchers have determined that there is a need for specialized safety system controls that are optimized for use in autonomous vehicles, in view of the risk of other vehicles crossing the centerline or the sudden appearance of other hazards.
For this purpose, Hyundai has developed a new autonomous vehicle safety control algorithm, that is meant to reduce the risk of such accidents and mitigate their impact. As an autonomous vehicle slows down or changes its direction to avoid an unforeseen obstruction, the control algorithm is used to calculate the anticipated movements of the occupants. These calculations are then used to help the system to optimize the use of on-board safety devices, like seat belt pretensioners and airbags.
Hyundai tested a wide range of autonomous driving scenarios and found that, when the vehicle steers to avoid an obstacle, it threw a passenger off balance before it went on to collide with the obstacle. In such an event, the passenger was out of position as the airbag deployed, thus providing reduced protection.
When the new algorithm is employed, the airbag and seat belt pretensioner were deployed more effectively to provide the passenger with a far greater level of protection. The algorithm reduced the passenger’s angle of movement by tightening the seatbelt pretensioner for a few moments just before the collision. This stabilized the passenger’s posture and thus provided greater protection by pre-activating the side and curtain airbags at the moment of the crash.
Even in the event that the autonomous car comes to a stop and thus successfully avoids an obstacle, the algorithm will still pre-tighten the seat belts to reduce the risk of injury while the possibility of a collision still exists.
The new algorithm will be applied to a range of future autonomous vehicles from Hyundai.
“Aligned with autonomous driving vehicle developments, Hyundai is proactively developing new safety technologies to maximize passenger safety,” said Wook Jin, Head of Integrated Safety Development Group at Hyundai Research & Development Division. “We are directing our efforts toward creating the safest autonomous driving technologies that provide maximum protection to passengers, even if the vehicle they are travelling in takes action to avoid a collision. These safety technologies will help prepare our vehicles and their users for a future of shared autonomous mobility and purpose-built vehicles.”
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