We resisted the temptation to create an April Fool’s article for today. Instead, we took a serious look at vehicle safety; specifically how Ford is starting work on one of the world’s first digital child crash dummies.
Digital models are used in research, not in vehicle development. They don’t take the place of crash dummies, which measure the effect of forces on the body. Instead, they are used as a way to understand how to further improve restraint system effectiveness through better understanding of injury mechanisms.
“We study injury trends in the field, and we know that traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people from age 1 to 34,” said Dr. Steve Rouhana, Senior Technical Leader for Safety, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “We want to better understand how injuries to younger occupants may be different.”
The work is the next step in the decade-long research at Ford to build a sophisticated and detailed computer adult human model, with body parts and organs painstakingly replicated so scientists could better understand what happens to the adult body in a crash.
“Our restraint systems are developed to help reduce serious injuries and fatalities in the field, and they have proven to be very effective,” Rouhana said. “But crash injuries still occur. The more you know about the human body, the more we can consider how to make our restraint systems even better. A child’s body is very different from an adult’s. Building a digital human model of a child will help us design future systems that offer better protection for our young passengers.”
After gathering such data through medical scans as well as anatomical texts, the researchers build a model section by section, creating regions of the body. The brain in the Ford adult human digital model was constructed as a separate component, detailed down to the stem, the gray matter and the fluid between the layers, said Dr. Jesse Ruan, a researcher in biomechanics at Ford.
The components are then joined into a virtual human body, which is extensively validated. Then, using mathematical and analytical tools combined with available body data, researchers are able to determine the effects of a crash – and the pressure of a restraint system – on the body.
Child data, however, are not as extensively available. Ford researchers, leveraging their global contacts, contracted into a one-year agreement with Tianjin University of Science and Technology, which is working with Tianjin Children’s Hospital, to obtain child geometry and basic body information from sources like MRIs and CAT scans provided by volunteers. Tianjin is one of the largest cities in China, close to the capital of Beijing. All other information for the project will be obtained from public domain literature.
“This is just the beginning,” said Ruan. “We’re taking the first step toward building a future child digital human body model.”