Did you know …? More can be done for inclusive occupant safety

When it comes to vehicle safety, much progress has been made over the last two decades by enacting enhanced regulations and extensive testing through governing bodies and consumer testing programs to ensure the well-being of road-users. However, to reduce road traffic deaths by 50% by 2030, much work is still to be done. One element of achieving this global goal is to reduce the risk of injuries to vehicle occupants, which currently represent 30% of road traffic fatalities globally (and 49% in Europe) (World Health Organization, 2023).

Regulatory Standards & Vehicle Crash Safety Systems:

European vehicle safety standards in Europe are governed by bodies like the European Commission, whose aim is set standards to safeguard occupants and road-users alike. Currently, type approval tests primarily use 50th percentile male dummies and 05th percentile female dummies to assess and design occupant safety systems. However, this does not provide standards and assessment for the average female (50th percentile), specific needs of occupants with physical disabilities, nor the unique seating configurations available in future autonomous vehicles. (UNECE, 2022) (ESTC, 2018)

The Autonomous Vehicle Dilemma: comfort, safety & inclusivity:

With the advent of autonomous vehicles, new dimensions are added to the safety discourse of road vehicles, especially in mixed fleet operation. Whilst the relaxed seating environments in self-driving cars offer better comfort than conventional vehicles, the new seating arrangements may pose an increased risk to the safety of occupants if they were to involved in a collision. To ensure complete inclusivity of safe and innovative vehicles, the safety of disabled occupants can not be overlooked, especially as these individuals may have unique requirements and challenges for effective restraint systems. Furthermore, the added comfort of a more spacious occupant cabin indirectly reduces the space available for crash mitigation structures, thereby providing further challenges to effectively manage the collision energy for optimal operation of integrated restraint systems and meet type approval qualification. (European Union, 2019)

Figure 1. Reduced Driving Tasks of Autonomous Vehicles © DLR/Institut für Verkehrsforschung

Tackling safety challenges through Human centered design:

Within Aware2All, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) employs their Next Generation Car, Urban Modular Vehicle PeopleMover (UMV PM), to address the challenges of future autonomous vehicles to pave the path for inclusive occupant safety of driverless vehicles. The UMV PM provides the ideal platform for occupant safety design of highly autonomous vehicles by providing relaxed seating arrangements for forward and rearward facing occupants and novel structural designs. While maintaining current type approval requirements for safety, the future occupant safety system challenges will be addressed in Aware2All through virtual testing of the UMV PM by a wholly inclusive approach to occupant safety, utilizing latest developments of virtual Human Body Models and Anthropometric Test Devices.

Figure 2.NGC UMV PM 2+2 Exterior (DLR, 2019)

5. NGC UMV | DLR Transport


DLR. (2019). DLR Transport. Retrieved from 5. NGC UMV:

ESTC. (2018, February). Briefing: 5th EU Road Safety Action Programme 2020-2030. Retrieved from

European Union. (2019). Regulation (EU) 2019/2144 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 November 2019 on type-approval requirements for motor vehicles and their trailers, and systems, components and seperate technical units intended for such vehicles, as regards... Brussels: Official Journal of the European Union. doi:ISSN 1977-0677

UNECE. (2022, February Transport, Vehicle Regulations). Framework Document for Automated/Autonomous Vehicles. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. (2023). Global status report on road safety 2023. Geneva: World Health Organization. doi:Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.