Reading the newspaper and lying in the car, or being able to talk face to face with the passengers in the back seat, all this should become reality some day. But do today's conventional seat belts protect the occupant who sits crossways to the direction of travel? Can the airbags provide sufficient protection for the occupant when the backrest is placed in a reclining position? The ADAC has investigated this in eighteen sled tests and a Euro NCAP crash with altered seating positions. The result: in today's car, the new seating positions of tomorrow will be dangerous in the event of an accident.
In today's cars, the entire vehicle structure, such as seat belts or airbags, is designed to ensure that the occupants are seated forward and upright. In its tests, the ADAC has examined positions that deviate from this. A slight turn (+/-15°) does not have a strong negative effect on safety. However, anyone who wants to take a nap while driving in the future could suffer serious and even fatal injuries in the lying position in the event of an accident. The danger of slipping under the lap belt (so-called submarining) increases, and the spine is compressed so severely that this would result in permanent damage. In addition to sled tests, a crash according to Euro NCAP was also carried out to investigate how the futuristic seating position in interaction with a current vehicle structure affects the risk of injury. The injury values compared to a crash with an upright seating position in an identical vehicle type clearly show how serious the difference is.
The sled tests in a rearward facing and lying position show that a 3-point belt installed today would not be sufficient. The dummy was not held in the seat, but rose over the back of the seat like over a ramp. In addition, the backrest of the seat broke already at 30 km/h and further intensified this effect, so that the occupant would collide with the vehicle roof in an accident. Even in a lateral seating position, problems can occur if the driver falls out of the seatbelt or injures himself or herself in the neck with the diagonal belt.
Conclusion: Today's restraint systems are not suitable for the changed seating positions in the automated future. New concepts for airbags, belts and seats must therefore be developed and adapted to the changed positions and movements of the occupants. The vehicle structure (A-, B-pillar, dashboard, etc.) must also be designed in such a way as to prevent the occupant from colliding with it.