A Virtual Woman in the Hot Seat

Photos: © TU Graz / FSI

Crashes in the services of science. At the FSI, automotive engineers have developed the world’s first female crash test dummy for rear-end collisions. The lady could ensure more safety in rear-impact crashes in the future. According to an international study, 300,000 people are injured in rear-end collisions in Europe every year. Some 15,000 of them live with painful, long-term consequences, which corresponds to four billion euros in economic loss. “Women have a three-times higher risk of neck injuries due to their more delicate anatomy,” asserts Ernst Tomasch, project head at the Institute of Vehicle Safety (VSI) of Graz University of Technology, which was part of the FSI till the end of 2013. Between 2009 and 2013 in Graz, he and his team co-developed the world’s first female crash test dummy for rear-end collisions.

Lack of Women

What was crucial for this was co-operation on the ADSEAT EU project, a joint project carried out by a number of international research establishments and companies – including Volvo, the University of Strasbourg and Loughborough University. The project co-ordinator was the Swedish research institute VTI, and the model was implemented by the international HUMANETICS company. The common goal was to prevent whiplash injuries using better vehicle seats. “However,  only male dummies and simulations were available for the development of vehicle seats, which is obviously not ideal for women,” says Tomasch. For serious measurement data,  an altruistic female dummy was needed.

Purely Virtual

Normally, a high-tech dummy with a large number of sensors takes on the role of a guinea pig, and the domestic automobile industry is happy to fall back on the equipment of the Graz institute. Accidents are then simulated on a sled system and recorded with high-speed cameras, with huge amounts of data being collected for the computer. In this case, we decided right from the beginning  to use a purely virtual dummy variant made of bits and bites. “The big advantage of this is that data can be fed into the computer programmes and simulations any way we like and the test conditions can be changed at the push of a button,” adds the project head.

More Safety

The project lasted altogether about four years. And the result is remarkable. Using the virtual female dummy, which goes by the name EvaRID (Eva for female; RID for Rear Impact Dummy), forces on the head or neck or even complete bodily movements can now be compared under a huge variety of conditions. Tomasch continues: “We’ve created the right preconditions to adapt safety and seating systems better to the female anatomy. In this way, not only the risk of injury but also the enormous economic losses can be reduced.”

More Diversity

As regards overall safety research, it’s a big step in the right direction for the automotive engineers. “Because the more diverse testing conditions there are in the run-up, the better computer models can look at differences in the population, and the safer driving becomes,” Tomasch elaborates. But despite big progress, there is still much to be done in the field. A follow-up project has been submitted by the institute and is currently awaiting funding. 

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