Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


John D Hill


The dissertation titled "Driver Safety in Far-side and Far-oblique Crashes" presents a novel approach to assessing vehicle cockpit safety by integrating Human Factors and Applied Mechanics. The methodology of this approach is aimed at improving safety in compact mobile workspaces such as patrol vehicle cockpits.

A statistical analysis performed using Michigan state's traffic crash data to assess various contributing factors that affect the risk of severe driver injuries showed that the risk was greater for unrestrained drivers (OR=3.38, p<0.0001) and for incidents involving front and far-side crashes without seatbelts (OR=8.0 and 23.0 respectively, p<0.005). Statistics also showed that near-side and far-side crashes pose similar threat to driver injury severity. A Human Factor survey was conducted to assess various Human-Machine/Human-Computer Interaction aspects in patrol vehicle cockpits. Results showed that tasks requiring manual operation, especially the usage of laptop, would require more attention and potentially cause more distraction. A vehicle survey conducted to evaluate ergonomics-related issues revealed that some of the equipment was in airbag deployment zones. In addition, experiments were conducted to assess the effects on driver distraction caused by changing the position of in-car accessories. A driving simulator study was conducted to mimic HMI/HCI in a patrol vehicle cockpit (20 subjects, average driving experience = 5.35 years, s.d. = 1.8). It was found that the mounting locations of manual tasks did not result in a significant change in response times. Visual displays resulted in response times less than 1.5sec. It can also be concluded that the manual task was equally distracting regardless of mounting positions (average response time was 15 secs). Average speeds and lane deviations did not show any significant results.

Data from 13 full-scale sled tests conducted to simulate far-side impacts at 70 PDOF and 40 PDOF was used to analyze head injuries and HIC/AIS values. It was found that accelerations generated by the vehicle deceleration alone were high enough to cause AIS 3 - AIS 6 injuries. Pretensioners could mitigated injuries only in 40 PDOF (oblique) impacts but are useless in 70 PDOF impacts. Seat belts were ineffective in protecting the driver's head from injuries. Head would come in contact with the laptop during a far-oblique (40 PDOF) crash and far-side door for an angle-type crash (70 PDOF). Finite Element analysis head-laptop impact interaction showed that the contact velocity was the most crucial factor in causing a severe (and potentially fatal) head injury. Results indicate that no equipment may be mounted in driver trajectory envelopes. A very narrow band of space is left in patrol vehicles for installation of manual-task equipment to be both safe and ergonomic. In case of a contact, the material stiffness and damping properties play a very significant role in determining the injury outcome. Future work may be done on improving the interiors' material properties to better absorb and dissipate kinetic energy of the head. The design of seat belts and pretensioners may also be seen as an essential aspect to be further improved.