The Potential of Event Data Recorders to Improve Impact Injury Assessment in Real World Crashes

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Virginia Tech

Event data recorders (EDRs) are an invaluable data source that have begun to, and will increasingly, provide novel insight into motor vehicle crash characteristics. The "black boxes" in automobiles, EDRs directly measure precrash and crash kinematics. This data has the potential to eclipse the many traditional surrogate measures used in vehicle safety that often rely upon assumptions and simplifications of real world crashes. Although EDRs have been equipped in passenger vehicles for over two decades, the recent establishment of regulation has greatly affected the quantity, resolution, duration, and accuracy of the recorded data elements. Thus, there was not only a demand to reestablish confidence in the data, but a need to demonstrate the potential of the data. The objectives of the research presented in this dissertation were to (1) validate EDR data accuracy in full-frontal, side-impact moving deformable barrier, and small overlap crash tests; (2) evaluate EDR survivability beyond regulatory crash tests, (3) determine the seat belt accuracy of current databases, and (4) assess the merits of other vehicle-based crash severity metrics relative to delta-v.

This dissertation firstly assessed the capabilities of EDRs. Chapter 2 demonstrated the accuracy of 176 crash tests, corresponding to 29 module types, 5 model years, 9 manufacturers, and 4 testing configurations from 2 regulatory agencies. Beyond accuracy, Chapter 3 established that EDRs are anecdotally capable of surviving extreme events of vehicle fire, vehicle immersion, and high delta; although the frequency of these events are very rare on U.S. highways. The studies in Chapters 4 and 5 evaluated specific applications intended to showcase the potential of EDR data. Even single value data elements from EDRs were shown to be advantageous. In particular, the seat belt use status may become a useful tool to supplement crash investigators, especially in low severity crashes that provide little forensic evidence. Moreover, time-series data from EDRs broadens the number of available vehicle-based crash severity metrics that can be utilized. In particular, EDR data was used to calculate vehicle pulse index (VPI), which was shown to have modestly increased predictive abilities of serious injury compared to the widely used delta-v among belted occupants. Ultimately, this work has strong implications for EDR users, regulatory agencies, and future technologies.

Event Data Recorder, Delta-V, Survivability, Seat Belt Usage, Vehicle Pulse Index