AUTOMOTIVE TRENDS AND INFLUENCE ON OCCUPANT SAFETY
The electric vehicle (EV) market is growing rapidly, as major car manufacturers catch up to agile start-ups, such as Tesla, with their own EV offerings. Audi, Porsche, General Motors and Ford have all either announced or already produced brand new EVs within the last two years alone. Such a transition in the automotive industry is fuelling the EV market to reach an expected 21 mn vehicle sales in 2030 . Improving battery technology and national incentives also contribute to an increase in sales.
Meanwhile, companies of all sizes and from many industries are engaged in the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs). Self-driving passenger cars will require several hundred-of-millions of lines of software code as well as hundreds of Electronic Control Units (ECUs), sensors and other electronic components. As a result, the emergence of the AV market is expected to drive growth in automotive electronics and embedded software.
At the same time, innovative vehicle architectures are being developed to manage complexity through consolidation and to optimise the implementation of electric powertrains, including batteries. These new architectures will enable new features and novel vehicle configurations, especially as human beings transition from drivers to passengers. Here, one area of critical concern is how these technologies will affect occupant safety, particularly in the event of a crash.
PASSENGER SAFETY IN THE ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS AGE
To maximise drive range in EVs, automakers are placing additional emphasis on the aerodynamic properties of vehicles. The results of aerodynamic studies can lead to changes in the dimensions, packages and configuration of the passenger cabin, thus altering how it will behave in a crash. Electric motors and batteries also require different crash structures and can affect vehicle dynamics since the centre of gravity of the vehicle will be lowered.
In an AV, new seating arrangements – such as conference seating, where passengers face inwards toward each other – will affect how bodies behave in a crash, 1. Manufacturers will need to ensure that passengers seated in a conference layout will not injure each other during a crash. Furthermore, new seating arrangements will require new restraint systems and airbag deployments to ensure passenger safety, as well as examination of how new seating positions affect loading on the occupants in order to determine the safest seating arrangement.
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