Michael Dick, Audi Board Member for Technical Development, underscored the motivation behind Audi's accident research in his welcome speech: "The AARU is a unique interdisciplinary partnership between a commercial enterprise, the scientific community and a public authority.
Audi founded AARU in order to learn more about actual accidents and how Audi models behave in accident situations."
The analysis of actual accidents, Dick added, in addition to the many simulations and crash tests in the development phase, offers an excellent opportunity to analyze the diversity of factors that influence actual accidents. "The information gained here provides significant added value to our day-to-day development work," Dick said. "This is crucial for many decisions on design criteria and details for each new generation of cars."
In addition to carrying out technical and medical analyses of accidents and collecting general data about an accident's sequence of events and the people involved, the researchers also incorporate aspects of psychology into their work. The goals of the research range from increasing general traffic safety and further developing the safety equipment of current and future Audi cars, to contributing to the development of more efficient driver assistance systems and even a "car that prevents accidents". Partners in AARU are the Trauma Surgery Department at Regensburg University Hospital and the Bavarian police.
Human error is the main cause of all road accidents. What happened immediately before an accident? Why did the crash occur? Was the driver distracted by something? Was he or she suffering from personal or job-related stress? Did the driver fail to perceive the danger, or consciously take a risk? All these issues are also investigated by an additional AARU team, led by a qualified psychologist. This provides the opportunity to obtain significant findings from actual accidents about the driver's behavior and subjective perceptions in the pre-crash phase, just before an accident occurs. These can then be incorporated without significant delays into the product development process for driver assistance systems.
Appropriate adjustments to these technical systems, such as voice-activated vehicle operation, night-vision technologies, adaptive cruise control and lane-change assistance systems or automated emergency braking, can only be made if the driver's typical response in critical situations is known and taken into account in the system design.
The task of the accident research team at Audi is to analyze an accident from a technical viewpoint and to reconstruct it, in order to pinpoint the scope for improving Audi models and to assess how effective the vehicle's safety systems and behavior are in a real-life accident. The results are directly incorporated into the development of Audi cars. "Our research always focuses on the human being," Dick said.
It was determined at the start that the analysis of Audi accidents should cover medical aspects in addition to technical aspects. Aspects of road safety are treated as a very high priority in the development of Audi vehicles. Audi is making lasting improvements to traffic safety by further developing existing systems for active and passive safety as well as through the use of new technologies. The aim is specifically on helping to avoid accidents and on reducing the consequences of accidents.