Optimization for crashworthiness is of vast importance in automobile industry. Recent advancement in computational prowess has enabled researchers and design engineers to address vehicle crashworthiness, resulting in reduction of cost and time for new product development. However, a deterministic optimum design often resides at the boundary of failure domain, leaving little or no room for modeling imperfections, parameter uncertainties, and/or human error. In this study, an operational model-based robust design optimization (RDO) scheme has been developed for designing crashworthiness of vehicle against side impact. Within this framework, differential evolution algorithm (DEA) has been coupled with polynomial correlated function expansion (PCFE). An adaptive framework for determining the optimum basis order in PCFE has also been presented. It is argued that the coupled DEA–PCFE is more efficient and accurate, as compared to conventional techniques. For RDO of vehicle against side impact, minimization of the weight and lower rib deflection of the vehicle are considered to be the primary design objectives. Case studies by providing various emphases on the two objectives have also been performed. For all the cases, DEA–PCFE is found to yield highly accurate results.

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