Dr. Stewart Wang (left center), founding director of the University of Michigan’s International Center of Automotive Medicine, discusses the effects of crash-related injuries on human anatomy with GM safety engineers (l to r) Suzanne Kayser, Mike Haldenwanger and Barbara Bunn, who participate in ICAM’s Technical Fellowship for Engineers. (Photo : Erik Campos for General Motors)
One day a week, GM safety engineers make their way to a lab at the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor hospital.
While there, they observe surgeries or dissections, or study 3-D images and data on crash-related injuries.
The weekly field trip is part of a collaborative program between GM and the University of Michigan's International Center of Automotive Medicine (ICAM).
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GM has been working with ICAM for 25 years, and highlights the joint effort as a reason why 14 Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC vehicles have been named 2012 Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and why five have received 5-Star Overall Vehicle Scores in US New Car Assessment Program testing.
"It truly is collaborative work," Dr. Stewart Wang, director of ICAM, Acute Care Surgery research, and the University of Michigan Program for Injury Research and Education, said in a statement. "GM's engineers are the best at what they do and we learn a great deal from them. With all my experience as a researcher, they've really pushed me to up my game by demanding mathematically specific injury data that can serve as the basis for new test methodologies and occupant protection solutions."
The center has tens of thousands of full-body scans of crash victims that the GM engineers work as part of "analytical morphomics", 3D medical imaging and computational biomechanics system invented for crash research.
"Morphomics helps bridge the gap between crash test dummies and real people," Mike Haldenwanger, a GM senior field performance assessment engineer taking part in the program, said. "Being able to see individual variations from body to body is helping us understand at an anatomical level how to better adapt safety systems to provide a higher level of protection to a wider segment of the population."
An example of the benefits yielded from the program are vehicle knee bolsters and seat belts that are designed to avoid the sort of frontal-crash leg and hip injuries in frontal crashes the engineers have studied in the lab.
Suzanne Kayser, a vehicle safety performance engineer, said, "Understanding what people go through biomechanically as a result of vehicle crashes is a strong motivator for finding ways to prevent injuries from happening in the first place, or at the very least lessen their severity."