Article 2010


Until the early 1990s, progress in road safety was minimal. Despite the fact that interest in improving passenger protection has been high since this concept, the results were incredibly low. Just look at how cars passed crash tests in the mid-80s, and then compare them with cars in the mid-90s and 2000s - the difference in results is striking.

The consumer perception of this topic has also changed, which means that now security is indeed for sale. Moreover, safety has become one of the main characteristics that people look at when buying a new car. While all car companies have been touting safety for decades, most of them crashed badly both in crash tests and in real car accidents.

The simple truth is that these companies ignored the high cost of developing and researching in the field of security - they simply engaged in advertising. If you look at the crash tests of the 60s, 70s and 80s, you will not notice the difference - because there is none. The fact is that, like good profitable companies, they simply used a psychological image, that they create safer cars - only in order to earn more money.

I believe that the quality and success of crash test dummies is measured in the safety features that automakers integrate into their cars to better protect people. The number of airbags or electronic components these days is advertised solely to increase sales. There is an opinion that the pace of technological progress has not allowed to achieve better results... is this so? Read on to find out more - it will be about the appearance of dummies for crash tests.

Evolution of crash test dummies

Let's start by explaining what a crash test dummy is and discuss its role. A crash test dummy is an anthropomorphic (or humanoid, if you like) test device (ATD) that attempts to accurately reproduce the movement of a person’s body while simulating a vehicle’s impact. And, as I noted earlier, the quality and success of the dummy is measured by the safety features that automakers implement in their vehicles to better protect passengers. In turn, the effectiveness of the dummy is measured by its ability to collect a wide and accurate array of data on the dynamics of human exposure in the event of a car accident.

The public became interested in promoting improved car safety solutions shortly after the world's first few car-related traffic accidents. If you are interested in facts, then Mary Ward was the first recorded victim of a car accident that was hit by a steam engine car. This happened on August 31, 1869, 17 years before Karl Benz invented the first gasoline-powered car. In North America, the first recorded car accident occurred on September 13, 1899, when Henry Bliss was shot down while leaving the cab of a New York trolley bus.

The first approach to improving safety was to study the effect of a head-on collision on the human body. This, of course, led to the development of the seat belt. Then the focus was on the driver’s seat, although the dashboard and the car itself were very rigid, and all the impact force was transmitted directly to the passengers.

The first serious tests were conducted by Wayne University of Detroit, and the first crash tests used... human corpses.


Frontal impact test on a corpse.

Of course, there were ethical and moral problems associated with the use of dead people as test dummies, but researchers claimed that bodies would be useful for research, and their use would help save lives. This gave the use of corpses an honorable meaning and rejected claims of desecration. The problem is that corpses can only be used once, and only corpses of people who died for natural reasons can be used, since any previous injuries will prevent the correct determination of damage caused by road accidents.


By the mid-1950s, researchers had collected enough information from tests with corpses to understand that they needed to improve the procedure for assessing injuries during crash tests. Their first options are studies on volunteers and animals. One of the first researchers to find themselves in the role of mannequins was Colonel John Paul Stepp USAF and Professor Lawrence Patrick of Wayne State University.


Colonel Stepp rides on a rocket sleigh at Edwards Air Base

Both of them tested the effect of extreme moderation on the human body. Colonel John Paul Stepp is known for his military missile sled tests, in which he slowed down in 1.4 seconds from a speed of more than 677 km/h to zero. Despite the fact that human studies yielded very accurate results, they turned out to be extremely dangerous, and the subjects could not withstand certain physical injuries.

In animal testing, advances in mannequin research have generated strong resistance from animal rights groups, especially the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The most useful animals that were used during this short period of time were pigs, whose body structure, according to the researchers, was similar to the structure of a human body. Animal testing played an important role when engineers tried to develop a technology to prevent deaths caused by breaking through the steering column, since it was impossible to use both corpses and living things.

Introducing the world of mannequins and virtual passengers

The solution to the problem of breaking through the steering wheel came with a folding steering column, which was invented by Mercedes-Benz engineer White Baren. A hinged steering column was first introduced in the United States by Chevrolet in 1965. The use of animals for testing reached both functional and ethical limits, so scientists and researchers had to look for a more progressive way to model human exposure in car accidents.

The first test dummy in the form that everyone knows him today was the Sierra Sam, created by Samuel W. Alderson in his research laboratory Alderson Research Labs (ARL) and Sierra Engineering Co in 1949. The mannequin was much taller and heavier than the average adult male and was used to test ejection seats for airplanes, helmets and pilot harnesses.


Sierra Sam is testing ejection seats.

After that, Alderson created the VIP-50 dummy, which was a test dummy specifically designed for General Motors and Ford, while Sierra introduced a model called “Sierra Stan.”
GM later tried to combine the best features of the VIP-50 and Sierra Stan models into one testing dummy and came up with the Hybrid I.This model was also known as the “50 percent male”, as it resembled the average man in height, weight and proportions.


In 1972, GM introduced the Hybrid II crash test dummy, which provided an improved response to the spine, shoulder, and knee joints, as well as providing more accurate documentation of damage.


Two 50th percentile Hybrid II dummies used as ballast for low speed collision tests.

Shortly thereafter, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States entered into an agreement with General Motors to create a crash test dummy that will outperform the Hybrid II dummy and adapt to the automotive industry.

The result was presented in 1976 and was called the Hybrid III. This 5th percentile male mannequin has a height of 179.8 cm and a weight of 81.2 kg. Hybrid III is used by the Institute for Highway Safety Insurance (IIHS) and is currently the most widely used test dummy. In order to expand the range of results, a whole family joined the Hybrid III, including the 5th percentile female mannequin and three Hybrid III children's mannequins, which are mannequins of ten, six and three years old. A larger male mannequin of the 95th percentile was also introduced to measure the dynamics of a larger person and compare how the results of the accident affect people of different physiques and sizes.


The Hybrid III family of mannequins has expanded and now includes male mannequins of the 95th percentile, women of the 50th percentile and ten, six and three-year-old children.

For use in crash tests, modern test dummies must be able to record several variables, such as impact speed, crushing force, bending, folding, and deceleration rates in a collision.

The Hybrid III has its limitations, but thanks to its versatile design, its parts are interchangeable and can be adapted to other applications. This dummy was designed to measure frontal impact and is not so useful for side impacts, capsizing and rear impacts. However, where restrictions appear, new, unprecedented solutions appear.


Hybrid III is calibrating


10-year-old Hybrid III dummy in an extra chair after a frontal crash test.

Stages of evolution

Among the further developments that appeared after Hybrid III, the following can be distinguished:

  • Dummy SID (lateral impact dummy), specially designed to measure shock in the ribs, spine and internal organs, as well as measure chest compression in side collisions.


    WorldSID is an advanced ATD with side impact used for EuroNCAP side impact test modes.

  • Dummy BioRID allows you to more accurately assess whiplash injuries when hitting the back. This mannequin was very useful in developing effective head restraints for the head and neck. BioRID's ability to assume a more natural sitting position is provided by its 24 vertebral simulators.


  • CRABI is a child testing dummy used to more accurately measure the effectiveness of child restraint systems. It is available in three age versions: 18-month, 12-month, and 6-month.

  • THOR - the improved male mannequin of the 50th percentile, the official successor to the Hybrid III model. It has an improved structure of the spine and pelvis to look more like a person, and comes with an innovative set of facial sensors designed to study the bumps that come in front of the face during a car accident.


    THOR uses sophisticated frontal impact assessment tools

  • i-Dummies is a generation of mannequins developed by First Technology Safety Systems in Plymouth, Michigan, USA. The mannequins were designed to be used on the new GM tipping crash test rig and have a new head, upper and lower neck, chest and pelvis. The letter “i” in the name refers to integrated electronics, because this dummy contains a data logger the size of a cell phone. This recorder replaces 22 kg of wires and allows the dummy to move more freely.
  • THUMS (Total HUman Model for Safety) is an advanced crash test dummy from Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). Version 4.0 recently went on sale, this average male mannequin is built on the basis of the previous generation (which included a skeleton-like structure and brain) by adding detailed models of internal organs. This novelty is extremely important because past car accidents have shown that the tightness of the seat belt in combination with the airbag does not interfere with the internal organs of a person to maintain inertia, leading to hemorrhage. Toyota's THUMS 4 allows researchers and engineers to determine how and to what extent parts of the body and internal organs are damaged during a collision.



The Toyota Technical Development Corporation, responsible for the THUMS project, plans to expand its crash test dummy lineup to include a larger man and a smaller woman. TMC also plans to sell the THUMS 4 dummy from fall 2010.

Prospects for crash test dummies

THUMS 4 has been developed with the help of research institutes and universities. The development was carried out using a high-precision computer tomograph to conduct detailed measurements of the internal structure of the human body. And so the future looks like - the joint work of independent research institutes and universities that use advanced computer simulations to reproduce traffic accidents. The purpose of this research is to improve understanding of how passenger safety can be enhanced.

Another important area that has intrigued researchers is the imitation of a pregnant woman driving in a collision. The first prototype of a pregnant woman's mannequin for crash tests was made by Loughborough University UK. They placed a container of liquid over the pelvis to simulate the uterus. Their research has focused on developing a suitable seat belt design for pregnant women, as research has shown that most pregnant women have given up wearing a seat belt because of discomfort.

Although the importance of computer-assisted collision simulations is likely to become the main research methodology in the coming years, we believe that the future lies in the combination of virtual collisions and the use of advanced dummies for testing. Although the software will be able to reproduce geometrically correct simulations and calculate accurate collision readings, you will still need to use familiar mannequins to confirm the results.


A computer can play countless emergencies - at different angles and with different objects at different speeds. But despite this, steel is just steel, and welding points are just welding points, so the relativity of all things necessitates the use of full-scale anthropomorphic test devices and real test benches.

The only thing that needs to be done is to start introducing technological innovations as soon as possible (for example, planned collapse zones, intelligent airbags, non-hazardous dashboards and advanced seat designs). Sometimes it seems that companies paid a lot of attention to developing crash test dummies, forgetting why they were developing them. 60 years after the invention of the first crash test dummy and over 90 years since people realized the need to improve vehicle safety, crash test videos still collect hundreds of thousands of clicks on YouTube.

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