Loughborough University
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Loughborough University

Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre

Protecting precious cargo

Some 750,000 women become pregnant in the UK each year – and the majority of expectant mums will use a car throughout. So how can you properly protect such precious cargo when behind the wheel?

IMCRC academic Professor Serpil Acar and her team at the Department of Computer Science have, through a series of projects, spent many years investigating this issue. As a result, they’ve produced the world’s most comprehensive body of research to ensure pregnant car users and their unborn babies enjoy safer and more comfortable journeys.

Working alongside experts in the car industry, the team produced the first ever database of detailed measurements of pregnant women. More than 100 expectant mothers took part in the exercise, which included in-depth interviews on their experiences of driving and being an occupant in a car while pregnant. Some 49 measurements were collected from each woman, capturing the many changes they undergo during pregnancy. More than 1000 pregnant women worldwide completed a questionnaire, which was made available on the Internet in five different languages.

We gain significant benefit from our collaboration with the IMCRC as an academic partner, through knowledge sharing and by helping research results to penetrate into industry.

Matthew Avery, Research ManagerThatcham

The database led to the development of ‘Expecting’, the world’s first computational model of a 38-week-pregnant car occupant, complete with a detailed representation of a foetus within a uterus. The research helped generate important guidelines for designers in the motor industry and advice for expectant mothers, by modelling and simulating crash scenarios.

The team went on to design seat belts for pregnant women. They worked with Thatcham Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre – an independent vehicle safety research centre – using its state-of-the-art crash test facility and an experimental pregnant woman dummy to assess commercially available seat belt adaptors. A prototype safety belt – SeatBeltPlus – has since been developed and comfort tests carried out.

Professor Acar said: “Our research has gone from a concept to a reality; from investigating the issues pregnant women face in cars to generating models, conducting simulations and designing seat belts. After years of intensive research we can now develop a product that can have an impact on safety and comfort for pregnant occupants, drivers and passengers.”

Want to know more? Contact Professor Serpil Acar

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