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The road to zero traffic casualties

Toyota’s latest safety initiatives detailed

With the rapid motorization of the Philippines, it is not surprising that fender-bender incidents and even fatal traffic accidents are on the rise.

But as accidents and their intensity are unpredictable, preparation in its many forms is key to significantly reduce injury to you, your passengers and even pedestrians.

The author with Toyota’s THUMS mascot.

The author with Toyota’s THUMS mascot.

It is this preparation by Toyota, the world’s largest automaker that has piqued my attention. They recently gave me an in-depth look at their holistic approach to safety, which included crashing a brand new Prius right before my eyes just to prove a point.

They toured me around their facility dedicated to making Toyotas the safest vehicles possible and promised to never stop their work until, in their own words, ‘traffic casualties are zero.’


Higashifuji Research& Development Center

Sitting on a 43,825 square meter property is Toyota’s 50-year old Higashifuji R&D Center where we received a ‘smashing’ welcome, met dummies and finally understood who, or better yet, what THUMS is.

Debuting in 1966, the Higashifuji R&D Center’s sole responsibility has been to implement their core safety concepts. Today, it holds some of the company’s most advanced safety research equipment.

After a quick briefing, we were whisked away into a cavernous hall with a pretty 2016 Prius sitting right smack in the middle.

Perfectly aligned 15 degrees off-center, it pained me to know that this all-new unit is about to get demolished by a 2.5-ton barrier travelling at 90 km/h.

Perusing the walls before the crash test, extra-large signs marked various angles of potential impact showing how truly comprehensive Toyota uses crash testing to determine the damage a vehicle and its passengers sustain during an impact.

Arranged neatly from a distance were remains of what were once brand new fourth generation Prius units displaying damage corresponding to the different angles of impact.


Oblique crash testTraffic casualties

The siren, the countdown and the wild screech came, before the barrier on four wheels careened into the Prius and then the loud crash with the bang that signaled deployment of the airbags, side airbags and side curtains.

It was a split-second ‘smashing’ spectacle that yielded an enormous amount of information that will no doubt save countless lives in the future.

Seconds after the ‘crash’, the site was abuzz with activity akin to a forensic investigation. Technicians with monitors immediately connected to ports and collected data for analysis while checking if the airbags deployed and seatbelts held up to the impact.

Future Prius owners will be glad to know that the airbags did their job and even in such devastating conditions, the collision-absorbing body structure kept the cabin intact.

It was the nose that absorbed most of the energy, shifting the Power Control Unit back by about a foot, dealing extensive damage to the engine room and the front axle.

People concerned about the battery of this hybrid though can breath a sigh of relief. The Prius is specially designed to prevent electrical shocks in the event of a collision by special insulation and a system that cuts off electric supply upon impact.


THUMS and the dummies

Toyota has probably the most extensive lineup of crash test dummies the world over. They have 80 units that are priced from ¥18 million all the way to the ¥100 million-model THOR (Test device for Human Occupant Restraint).

Some dummies also come with names like SID (Side Impact Dummy) and CRABI (Child Restraint Air Bag Interaction) while anonymous others represent various body types including small to large and extra large males, pregnant women and even pedestrians.

These dummies are stored in a temperature-controlled room because, as with anything with sensors, they don’t do well in humid and moist environments.

It is these dummies that are subjected to a variety of crash test situations from the barrier, car-to-car, front, oblique, side, and the rollover, trip over and fall over crash tests.

Complementing the dummies is Toyota’s software version of a human body named THUMS (Total Human Model for Safety). THUMS resides only in a computer and can be designed to represent various physiques based on size, gender and age.

It takes data from CT scan images of living human subjects for bio-fidelity to ensure that it provides accurate information regarding injuries to all parts of the human body and its internal organs in a variety of computer-simulated collisions.

The latest model, THUMS version 5, can now simulate bone fractures, muscle actions, organ injury and even brain injury. It can even check the effectiveness of pre-collision and active safety systems of Toyota by simulating collision avoidance moves like braking and steering, plus simulate ride comfort and stability.


The holistic approach

Aside from all their R&D work, Toyota approaches ‘safety’ using a Three-Part Initiative. This includes educating all road users from children to adults and working with governments of all countries to improve the traffic situation and infrastructure.

In this way, a sustainable safety cycle is implemented beginning with Toyota, down to the people who drive their vehicles all the way to the traffic environment they occupy.

Until self-driving cars are perfected, preventing any form of vehicular collision whatsoever, your safety and that of your loved ones in a traffic accident are Toyota’s number one concern.

There’s still a long way to go on this road but every step forward leads Toyota and motorists from all around the world closer to ‘zero traffic casualties.’