The European Flexcrash project is developing a flexible and hybrid manufacturing technology using high-strength green aluminium alloys to produce adaptive crash-tolerant vehicle structures. With this innovative technology, the project aims to address the main challenges facing the automotive industry including compliance with greenhouse gas emission regulations and restrictions, and increasing passenger safety.
To do this, the project needs to identify safety needs for current and future mobility, and conduct advanced crash, toughness, fracture, and fatigue testing. Crash simulations, ranging from advanced material models to virtual testing, is essential to this process.
An approach to simulating crash scenarios
Researchers from the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems are working on the Flexcrash project to develop realistic crash scenarios and simulations of future traffic situations involving autonomous vehicles and human drivers. In the initial phase, driving scenarios extracted from publicly available databases will be fed into the soft-body simulator BeamNG.tech, a driving simulator specialising in realistic car crashes. Then, an optimisation process based on state-of-the-art search algorithms will create variations of the original crash scenarios with increased criticality and severity.
Based on recent research results, existing car crashes documented using textual and visual descriptions (i.e., accident sketches) will be automatically interpreted using Natural Language and Image Processing to extract information about road geometry, layout and vehicle movement. With this information at hand, an algorithm will set up driving simulations that (as far as possible) recreate the accident, allowing developers and testers to study how ADAS/AV could handle such critical situations.
Research in driving simulation for safety
IMC team will leverage BeamNG.tech’s ability to procedurally create content for automatically generating driving simulations that closely match the reference crash scenarios extracted from existing sources (such as CARE, GIDAS, STRADA, ZEDATU, CIREN, and MVCCS). Moreover, thanks to its soft-body simulation, BeamNG.tech will be able to accurately model the physics of the crashes, including the damage to the vehicles, thus providing a reliable way to assess crash criticality.
In addition, Flexcrash aims to develop an online, open simulation platform that follows the multi-player paradigm typical of popular video games where remote players interact with each other and with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems / Autonomous Vehicles (ADAS/AV) software. Using this platform, the team will be able to study live interactions between human drivers and (simulated) autonomous vehicles. This, in turn, will enable the generation of an additional set of critical scenarios that are not based on previous accidents but realistic interaction. With those two sources, a specialized search algorithm will then calculate virtual crash scenarios that anticipate possible actions by autonomous vehicles.
How Flexcrash contributes to reducing autonomous cars accidents
In the future, autonomous vehicles are expected to significantly reduce the number of traffic accidents. However, as they react autonomously and differently from human-controlled cars, crashes look different, and it is harder to know what they will look like. This, together with a lack of knowledge and relevant data, is one of the main reasons to improve the safety of future mixed-traffic situations.
The results from the advanced simulation developed as part of Flexcrash will provide data for improving the design of future autonomous cars. The ambition of the project is to use hybrid manufacturing technology for applying surface patterns using additive manufacturing onto preformed vehicle parts. With this, it could be possible to help reduce accident-related fatalities, as well as injuries, pollution and manufacturing costs.