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ISSN 1674-8484 , 2016 , 7 2 09/15

CN 11-5904/U J Automotive Safety and Energy, 2016, Vol. 7 No. 2 196 201

Conceptual Design of B-Pillar Load Path for Reducing Vehicle

Side Impact Intrusion
State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy, Department of Automotive Engineering, Tsinghua University,
Beijing 100084, China

Abstract: In vehicle side impact collisions, side structure intrusion must be controlled to reduce risks of injuries
and fatalities to occupants. This paper proposes adding a structural mechanism between B-pillar and seat frame
as an additional load path to distribute partial side impact load to seat frame and vehicle structure for reducing
side structure intrusion. Design requirements and a conceptual design are described. The added structure can
also serve as an armrest and is retractable in order not to affect ingress and egress of occupant. The device can
be automatically positioned by the door opening and closing. Requirements on ergonomics and anthropometric
have been considered in the design to ensure that the side impact load transfer function and the armrest
function can work properly in the main ranges of human anthropometry dimensions and seat positions.

Keywords: vehicle safety; side impact; intrusion; load path; ergonomics; armrest

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U 461.91 A DOI: 10.3969/j.issn.1674-8484.2016.02.009

/ Received 2015-10-08
/ First author / ZHOU Qing
/ Second author PRAWIRA Darwin/ 1988 E-mail:
ZHOU Qing, et al: Conceptual Design of B-Pillar Load Path for Reducing Vehicle Side Impact Intrusion 197

Side impact collisions are frequent and a predominantly severe
type of crash. In 2013, according to the Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety (IIHS) statistics show that in the US, traffic
accidents took 32,719 lives, and side impacts were counted for
25% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths [1]. In China side
impact is often most represented in all accidents [2]. Therefore
side impact safety has been a priority issue in traffic safety.
A-Pillar Horizontal
Beam Door-cross B-Pillar Side Panel
Side impacts require more attention due to less crash zone for Beam Rocker
energy absorption [3]. Furthermore the side structure of vehicle
body is comparatively weak in stiffness and strength compared
Figure 1 Side Structures of Passenger Car [8]
to that of the front and rear structures. Thus increasing the
strength of B-pillars plays an important role in reducing
intrusion. Reducing intrusion during lateral collision is a key Other improvements on the side structures are focused in
countermeasure to protect occupants from serious injuries [3]. redesigning and strengthening the beams that reinforce to
However, it often comes with mass penalty if adding doors, pillar sills, and roof rails surrounded the doors to obtain
reinforcements to the side structure or cost penalty if using high strength for the door structures.
extra-high-strength-steels. Most passenger cars have door interior padding for reducing
This paper presents a new type of mechanism that improves contact severity and absorbing energy when the door contacts
stiffness and strength of B-pillars with reasonable mass and occupant in side impact.
cost increase for reducing intrusion. The mechanism is adding
a load path from the mid-section of B-pillar to the seat frame. 1.2 Seat
Seats play an important role during lateral collisions. Seats are
1 Current Countermeasures against Side the factor that inuences the load transfer, which are strongly
Impact related to occupant injuries [9].
Since the 1970s, vehicle manufacturers, the US National If seat could be installed closer to the B-pillar, during side
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and many impact collision, it may distribute the impact load and reduce
others in the community have tried hard to reduce fatality impact force to the occupant and thus may reduce injuries [10].
risk in side impacts [4]. Main approaches for improvements
At present, most of seat designs for side impact protection
are focused on increasing the stiffness and the strength of
are focused on lowering contact severity when door contacts
side structures, and using energy absorbing interiors and side

1.3 Side Airbag

1.1 Side Structure
Side airbags are designed to protect occupants during lateral
Due to the side structures are the first contact point during
collision [4]. Side airbags, emerged in the 1990s, usually include
lateral collision, improvements on the side structures are
torso airbags and head airbags.
the most important major [5]. The amount of intrusion,
acceleration, intrusion velocity, and deformation pattern of the Torso and head airbags are designed to provide energy
side structures inuence the safety performance in lateral absorbing cushion between the occupants body and the vehicle
collisions [6]. side structure during lateral collision.
As seen in Figure 1 typical side structures of a passenger
car include B-pillar, roof rail, rocker, doors, and side panel.
2 Mechanism of B-Pillar Load Path
During lateral collision the side structures are struck by other Design for side impact protection has been improved
object and the side structures will provide resistance to reduce significantly, resulting in reducing many injuries and fatalities
intrusion [7]. in lateral collisions [4]. However, the intrusion during side
impact is still an issue. In high-speed impact, the most
Most of the B-pillars are designed with high strength steels for
important issue to occupant injuries is the large magnitude of
reducing intrusion into passenger compartment [4]. Furthermore
intrusion into passenger compartment, which might directly
door structures and door beams will also provide a large
impact on the occupant [11]. Improvement to achieve higher
resistance to reduce intrusion and absorb energy during lateral
result in reducing intrusion is necessary.
collision [4]. Therefore many results and designs are focused
on upgrading the door structures to reduce the extent of door In this paper, a new structural mechanism is added to improve
intrusion during side impacts [6]. the load path and reduce intrusion during side impact. As
198 J Automotive Safety and Energy 2016, Vol. 7 No. 2

sketched in Figure 2, the new structures are added in the spaces 3 Requirements and Functional Design
between the B-pillars and the seat frames at the middle height
As explained in the previous section, for reducing intrusion
of the B-pillar, respectively on the right side and the left side,
during side impact, a structure is added to fill the gap between
and a mid-structure is installed in between the two front seats.
B-pillar and the seat frame. This new mechanism design can
This way, as illustrated in Figure 3, during side collision the
increase the strength to the B-pillar, and can also be used as an
impact force can be transferred to the seat frame, and through
additional load path to transfer the impact force to seat frames
the seat frame to the other structures, for example, the oor and
and other structures.
even to the B-pillar on the other side through the mid-structure.
This new load path is in addition to the existing one, which is The new mechanism design also has to meet the ergonomics
the section of B-Pillar and the rocker that directly transfers side requirements. For example, it shall not incur any barrier to
impact force to the vehicle oor. ingress and egress and it shall function when occupant adjusts
the seat to any position. Therefore consideration in human
anthropometry is necessary.

3.1 Overview of Design

The design of the new mechanism is based on interior of
4-seater cars and designed with the requirements mentioned
Side above.
Structure As shown in Figure 4, the structure for filling the gap is
designed according to the space in between B-pillar and the
seat frame, which is different from car to car. When the seat
position is adjusted in vehicle use, the relative location and
orientation between the B-pillar and the seat frame change.
Therefore, the added side structure has to be long enough in the
Figure 2 Illustration of New Mechanism as Additional Load longitudinal direction of the vehicle to ensure load transferring
Path Against Side Impact when seat is in any position. Given that it has to be long enough
and its location, it makes a good sense to also design it as an
armrest, which would improve comfort as well.

ct Space
F impa
X direction

Figure 4 Side Structure Installation Space (top view)

Another consideration is that this added structure, which is

also an armrest, shall meet ergonomics requirements and
shall let passengers to ingress and egress the vehicle without
difficulties. To achieve this purpose, the armrest is designed
as a telescopic device. With the telescopic mechanism, the
armrest will extend longer in the X direction when the door is
Fimpact closed.

During side collision, the impact force is transferred from the

Figure 3 Illustration of Load Paths during Side Collision mid-section of B-Pillar to the seat frame through the added
side structure or armrest. The load would be further transferred
ZHOU Qing, et al: Conceptual Design of B-Pillar Load Path for Reducing Vehicle Side Impact Intrusion 199
to the vehicle oor through the seat frame. Then to add a
supplementary load path, as shown in Figure 5, a center console
box is installed between the two front seats, which could offer 3
a second load path for transferring partial of the impact load to
the other seat frame and then to the B-pillar on the other side.
This more distributed load path may release burden of seat
frame stiffness, which could lead to weight reduction.

Load 1
Console 7
Box 3 8

Figure 5 Mid-Structure Illustration (top view)

3.2 Telescopic Armrest 6

Figure 6 shows the 3D model of the design of the telescopic 1Door Latch; 2Latch Socket; 3Damper Spring;
armrest. It is a passive mechanism controlled by a spring. In 4Spring; 5Telescopic Armrest; 6Armrest Socket;
order to push the armrest back without bouncing, a damper is 7Long Bar Pin; 8Bar Holder Pin; 9Bar Holder;
also required. 10Damper pin; 11Long Bar; 12Armrest Pin.

As shown in Figure 7, the telescoping movements are triggered

Figure 6 Mechanism of Telescopic Armrest
by door opening and closing. When the door is closing, the
spring is compressed by the force from the door and the latch
is pushed inward, which pushes the armrest forward. When the
door is opening, the spring pushes the latch forward and the
armrest gets back inside the holding box.

The telescopic armrest is closer to passenger than the armrest

on the door interior, and so it offers improved comfort.

The main function of the device is for transferring impact load

to the seat frame in case of side impact. Serving as an armrest
is just a supplementary function. In some vehicle environment, Closed
if having an armrest could affect comfort function, the Door
device may be designed to a smaller size and mounted at an
appropriate location such that it only has the load transferring
(a) Armrest Telescoping with Door Opening and Closing

The spring stiffness needed to move the telescopic armrest FDoor

during door closing is designable. The stiffness must be F
sufficient in order to move the mass of the telescopic armrest
while should not be too high to let the passenger feeling any
inconvenience when closing the door.

Another consideration for armrest mechanism is the installation Fspring

of the lap belt. The only potential trouble to buckling up is that
the lap belt must go below the armrest. When not in use, since
the seatbelt and the armrest are both located near the B-pillar, (b) Telescoping when Door Closed
200 J Automotive Safety and Energy 2016, Vol. 7 No. 2


(c) Telescoping when Door Opened Figure 8 Center Console Box

Figure 7 Armrest Telescoping

it would not be difficult to make a geometrical design to make

sure that the lap belt is always located below the armrest and
the shoulder belt portion is always above the armrest.

3.3 Center Console Box

As a load transfer device, the center console box, seen in
Figure 8, is to ensure the load transfer when the two front seats
are adjusted to any positions. The center console box may be
long in the X direction, and therefore, as illustrated in Figure Seat further forward

9, even the two front seats are not lined up in the most extreme
Figure 9 Load Transfer through Center Console Box when
case, the load transfer is not difficult to achieve.
Two Front Seats are not Lined up
3.4 Engineering Anthropometry
In this study, the process of concept design began with the
discussion on the size and type of vehicles. The concept of
telescopic armrest and center console box for load transfer in
side impact shall fit in most vehicle types and dimensions and
accommodate various sizes of occupants.

Figure 10 shows some basic dimensions of the people in seated

postures [12] and Table 1 shows the measurement in mm which H1

covered a number of populations from different countries. By

accounting for these dimensions, the telescopic arm-rest design
and center console box can be mounted within optimal points.
Table 1 Static Anthropometric Measurements in Seating
Posture Measurement

Gender Human Size H1 / mm H2 / mm H3 / mm H4 / mm H1Sitting Height: from sitting surface to vertex

5th 855 548 184 184 H 2Sitting Shoulder Height: from sitting surface to acromion
H 3Sitting Elbow Height: from sitting surface to the underside
Male 50th 915 598 232 232
of elbow
95th 975 646 274 274 H 4Sitting Knee Height: from the floor to the upper surface of
5th 800 509 176 176 knee.

Female 50th 860 555 220 220

Figure 10 Static Anthropometric Measurements in Seating
95th 920 604 264 264 Posture [12]
ZHOU Qing, et al: Conceptual Design of B-Pillar Load Path for Reducing Vehicle Side Impact Intrusion 201

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