Evaluating Self-Unlocking Doors in Rollover Accidents using a Shock Testing Machine 2009-01-0073
Automotive manufacturers often rely upon features such as automatic locking to enhance the security and crashworthiness of doors in rollover accidents. This can be verified in warnings conveyed to vehicle owners through some owner's manuals. At the present time, there are no requirements on the dynamic performance of door locking systems within the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), although some static inertia requirements exist for latch systems.
Field accident investigation and laboratory testing has revealed that some locked doors can self-unlock in rollover accidents when a vehicle sustains a roof impact. Using standard laboratory shock testing machinery, the acceleration boundaries required to trigger self-unlocking have been mapped for some sample doors. Impact pulses of surprisingly low levels of acceleration, when combined with sufficient duration have been found to trigger this response.
Furthermore, two entirely different failure mechanisms have been identified and documented thus far. One failure mode results directly from inertial triggering of the locking system; this mode is anticipated by FMVSS. The second failure mode is the unexpected consequence of the vibratory response of the lock system linkage. This failure mode has not yet been recognized in the safety literature.
This paper presents the findings of a field accident investigation where self-unlocking was believed to have occurred as well as test data from doors exhibiting the two different self-unlocking mechanisms.