DETROIT -- Toyota's Collaborative Safety Research Center is expanding to the University of Virginia, University of Iowa and George Washington University. The center also is adding four research projects.
The new projects will focus on developing advanced crash modeling technologies and improving protection for vulnerable populations such as seniors, the automaker said in a statement Tuesday.
In January, Toyota invested $50 million to create the center, trying to re-create an image for safe, high-quality vehicles that was tarnished by recalls of millions of cars and light trucks in the United States throughout 2010.
Toyota's previous partnerships have included institutions in Michigan, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Massachusetts.
"The advantage of these partnerships is the talent and tools sharing," Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said in an e-mail. "Unlike other [manufacturers], we plan to publish as much of the research as we can. Not just proprietary research."
Virginia Tech University, an existing research partner, will help study the relationship between age and abdominal injuries caused by automobile crashes to determine if a specific population is more vulnerable to abdominal injuries during such events.
Virginia Tech will also pair with George Washington University to help study the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's upgraded crash test dummy.
The University of Iowa will help Toyota examine foot behavior at the early stages of the driving sequence -- such as engine startup and gear selection -- using a simulator and will test varying age groups, the company said.
The University of Virginia will help Toyota study the capabilities of Toyota's Total Human Model for Safety system in capturing the effects of complex automobile crash scenarios at the "whole body" level.
The crash modeling technologies help researchers better understand the mechanisms that cause injuries in car crashes.
Football helmets and car crashes
Toyota's research efforts were honored Monday by the Brain Trauma Foundation for work with Virginia Tech and the Wake Forest School of Medicine in helping significantly advance the understanding of brain trauma, Toyota said.
Using devices attached to the helmets of football players, university researchers collected data that have led to the first safety ratings system for football helmets, Toyota said. The data also will be used by Toyota to enhance its Total Human Model for Safety virtual human model in future research.
Said Stefan Duman, principal investigator for Virginia Tech, "We are confident our research advancements will help reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries in both automobile crashes and on the football field."