It may require automakers to share valuable information.
Automotive manufacturers are forced to make their cars safer thanks to more stringent testing, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) wants to raise the bar even further by looking into virtual testing for neck injury protection. While seat and torso protection has advanced rapidly, neck protection is still lagging.
This is why, despite Top Safety Picks for cars like the Acura Integra, Genesis G90, and Lexus RX, the agency still wants to build virtual models of car seats to test just how safe they are in a rear collision.
According to the IIHS, while low-speed rear collisions won't typically lead to any life-threatening injuries, they can lead to debilitating neck pain that could interfere with your work and life. According to US auto insurance claims, neck strains are among the most commonly reported injuries. This is why IIHS is paying close attention to these to improve vehicle crash protection.
The IIHS has also released head restraint ratings, which have come in handy to improve crash safety with real-world data backing it up. These ratings have also led to improvements in seat and head restraint designs.
The long-term goal for these virtual simulations is to evaluate how well seat and head restraint combinations can better protect people of different sizes and shapes. It will also factor in a variety of seating positions and crash scenarios. However, getting there will be challenging as it requires a multistep process that will need detailed computer models of the human body and the cooperation of vehicle manufacturers.
One issue that the IIHS will face is manufacturers' intellectual property rights concerning their seats. This is why their cooperation is vital to making neck restraints safer, as the agency will need to scan these seats and learn about their structure and composition.
One way they can get around this is to let automakers test their seats independently but with the protocols set up by the IIHS. However, the automakers will need to provide video evidence of the test so that the agency can verify the results, which they can audit later.
The agency is still formulating a way to incorporate virtual tests into its head restraint ratings in stages. The first step will be to give manufacturers the option of submitting their virtual test data with new 15mph testing protocols and the existing 10 mph test. This will help the IIHS get used to dealing with virtual data. Later on, the IIHS will expand the test scenarios with additional variables thrown into the mix.
The ultimate goal is to expand the required virtual tests into scenarios that can't be tested in the real world due to the limitations of the test dummies and the agency's tools. In doing so, it can provide better data to automakers and the public.