Modeling and Simulation to Assess and Demonstrate Airbag Technology for Occupant Protection in Tactical Vehicles

Principal Investigator: Jingwen Hu, University of Michigan,
Matthew Reed, University of Michigan,
Government: Rebekah Gruber, U.S. Army TARDEC
Industry: Ahad Zadeh, Michael Duncan, Takata

Phases 1 & 2 was performed September 2013 - 2014 (2.A29). Phase 3 (2.A36) has been ongoing from 2015.

Airbag technologies have the potential to provide improved protection for occupants of military vehicles. However, optimally implementing these technologies requires a better understanding of the crash scenarios, restraint systems and injury potential as to where they will provide the most benefit. These crash scenarios are not necessarily the same as those that occur in passenger vehicles because of differences in size, mass, crash involvement, occupant compartment geometry, seating position, and occupancy between military and passenger vehicles. The focus of this study is to develop and validate computational models for predicting injury potential of various crash scenarios and in situ occupant positioning for a light tactical vehicle.

In the phases 1 and 2 of this project, the following research tasks have been finished:

  1. Occupant compartment, seat, PPE and restraint finite element (FE) models based on an existing light tactical vehicle were developed.
  2. Sled tests in frontal crash conditions without airbags were conducted under different restraint and occupant configurations to setup the baseline performance for model validation.
  3. A full vehicle frontal barrier test and a full vehicle rollover test in curb-trip condition have been conducted to quantify the baseline occupant responses without airbags.
  4. The FE models were validated against the sled test data without airbags.

However, in the first two phases of this project the FE models have not yet been validated against test data with airbags, the airbags have not yet been introduced into the design optimization process, and crash tests with airbags need to be conducted to demonstrate the benefits of airbags for protecting occupants in light tactical vehicles.

The current work includes:

  1. Conduct component sled tests with airbags to tune and validate the FE models developed in phase 1 of this study.
  2. Perform parametric frontal and rollover crash simulations with airbags, in which occupant compartment kinematics, restraint system characteristics, occupant position, and belt fit are varied. Use results of these simulations to develop mathematical models that describe the relationship between injury potential and crash, occupant, and restraint conditions.
  3. Conduct design optimizations in different occupant/restraint/crash scenarios using the mathematical models and consider the injury reduction/airbag benefit measure(s) as the objective function(s).
  4. Conduct full vehicle frontal and rollover crash tests with the optimal design configurations and compare the results to the baseline tests to demonstrate the benefit of airbags in mitigating occupant injury potential in light tactical vehicles.


  • Hu, J., Wu, J., Klinich, K.D., Reed, M.P., Rupp, J.D., and Cao, L. (2013). Optimizing the rear seat environment for older children, adults, and infants. Traffic Injury Prevention, 14 Suppl: S13-22.
  • Hoffenson, S., Reed, M.P., Kaewbaidhoon, Y., and Papalambros, P.Y. (2013). On the impact of the regulatory frontal crash test speed on optimal vehicle design and road traffic injuries. International Journal of Vehicle Design. 63(1):39-60.