Vehicle Design

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Related Papers and Presentations

One Size Doesn't Fit All, Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) Conference


Modern passenger cars and trucks are designed for the young 50th percentile male and adjustments are provided to accommodate the 5th to 95th percentile occupant. However, the accommodating seating and occupant protection systems are grossly inadequate for the smaller people and the 30% of the U.S. population who are obese as well as those with the diminished muscular strength and increased fragility of age. The same considerations apply to the optional inclusion of driver aids. Automotive design staffs rarely include professionals over the age of sixty because mass marketing focuses on the young to middle aged population. But the population is aging and life expectancy now reaches to the eighties. Cars can now be purchased with a myriad of options but none include a senior package. Aftermarket sales of sunroofs, electronics, etc., and even limousine conversions are commonplace but no design effort has focused on an occupant protection package for these smaller, aging, older, fragile, obese people. This paper highlights what can be done technically.

The Minicars RSV - Still a Car for the Future, Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) Conference


Nearly a half century ago, the General Motors Research Laboratories, developed the high performance Electrovair, with an induction motor drive and solid state controller; the Lunar Rover, GM’s Mark on the Moon; passive occupant protection; separation cruise control; optical lane following; and an electrochemical rechargeable Lithium Iodine engine.

In 1968, a new company called Minicars grew out of this earlier work. This group developed prototype electric, gas and hybrid electric powered versions of a small car for the U.S. government. In 1970, Minicars was a subcontractor to AMF for the development of its Experimental Safety Vehicle.

The Minicars’ Research Safety Vehicle (RSV) was conceived in 1975 as a 1985 prototype. It was to be an S3E vehicle: Safe, Environmental, Efficient and Economical. It was built with foam filled, thin wall sheet metal sections and a polyurethane skin. This car passively protected occupants in 80 kph (50 mph) full frontal, 129 kph (80 mph) half car offset frontal, 64 kph (40 mph) angled side, rear and 48 kph (30 mph) rollover dynamic tests. An electronic version incorporated antilock brakes, radar separation cruise control, and emergency braking when a crash was unavoidable. A production version was to weigh 2,200 pounds, carry four people, and get 32 mpg. It also had 16 kph (10 mph) frontal and rear no damage bumpers and 80 km (50 mile) run flat tires.

Only years later have advanced air bags – as featured in the RSV – become standard in all light vehicles. In the decades since the ESV program and dynamic regulatory testing began, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now estimates that airbags save 2,500 lives annually, but we still lose about 12,000 people in frontal, 9,000 in side and over 10,000 in rollover crashes. We can do better by simply looking back to what the RSV program achieved.

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