May 1, 2008 Engineers developed a humanlike computerized dummy to improve the analysis of crash safety. The software simulates a crash in three dimensions, allowing researchers to view injuries from different angles, and to remove body parts to view possible internal injuries
Traditional crash test dummies have been used since the early 1950s to help study injuries from car crashes, but there's been little change in dummy design.
Now, researchers are developing smart, new dummy technology.
The day Nissa Quill was in a car accident, she was thankful her daughter wasn't in the car. "When the airbag went off, my hands and my arms took all of the blow from the airbag," Quill told Ivanhoe. Her injuries didn't take long to notice. "Pretty quickly some bruises and abrasions appeared on my arms," Quill said.
Each year, three million people are injured in car wrecks. Crash test dummies are used to study injuries on humans, but dummies aren't human-like enough to show real injuries. In addition to the steel and rubber "physical" dummies, mechanical engineers are now using new computerized dummies that are more human-like and reveal what's happening inside the bodies of the vehicle occupants during a crash.
"If you have a simulation, you can look at multiple aspects of what really went through the dummy," Pradeep Mohan, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the National Crash and Analysis Center in Ashburn, Va., told Ivanhoe. "You can really dissect the information much closer."
During a simulated crash test, the researchers can see the cause of the dummy's injuries from various crash angles. The software also allows engineers to remove the dummy's body parts to reveal never-before-seen injury details. "Let's say you want to do a detailed study of the brain injuries ý then you can just quickly switch it to a model," Dr. Mohan explained. The tests -- using computerized dummies -- are used to improve safety features in cars and build safer cars that prevent injuries better, keeping drivers and passengers safer.
At thirty-eight years old, Quill had never been in a car accident before. "So now I realize it's not that hard for it to happen," she said. Accidents will happen, but hopefully with fewer injuries. Computerized dummies are also used to design safer sports and military helmets.
ABOUT COMPUTER MODELING: Computer modeling is used to simulate the structure and appearance of both static objects, such as building architecture, and dynamic situations, such as a football game. Computer models can enable the user to test the consequences of different choices. They can provide cutaway views that let you see aspects of an object that would be invisible in the real artifact, as well as visualization tools that can provide many different perspectives. Physical models that reproduce behavior are limited by the physics of the world, while computer models have much looser bounds. Computer models enable you to run companies and civilizations, fight battles, play football games and evolve new species.
THE IMPACT OF COLLISIONS: The laws of physics say that an object in motion will stay in motion, with the same speed and direction, unless it is acted upon by an outside force. So if you are traveling at 60 MPH and your car hits a solid wall and comes to an immediate stop, your body will continue going at 60 MPH until it is stopped by, say, a seatbelt, airbag, or, at worst, a windshield. If the car has a rigid body, the rapid deceleration caused by the impact will produce injuries and fatalities. Because the stopping time is only a split second, the force on the passengers is very high.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the video portion of this report.