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Journeys : Jun Jul 2012
Life on the move Peter Gillon RACT Roadside Product Manager The job of today’s crash test dummy is to replicate a human during a crash and to collect data that is not possible to get any other way. I was lucky enough to witness some of these dummies doing their job on a recent visit to ANCAP’s Crash-Test Lab in Sydney. (ANC AP is the Australasian New Car Assessment Program. See more about ANCAP’s work at w w w.ancap.com.au). Modern crash-test dummies are very high-tech, ver y expensive objects. But they did things differently back in the 1930s. Gathering crash information was a grisly business in those days – human cadavers were used to determine how the body responds to the sudden, violent forces of a car crash. Steel ball bearings were dropped on their skulls from var ious heights. Bodies were dumped dow n unused elevator shafts onto steel plates. Cadavers fitted with cr ude devices to measure acceleration were strapped into cars and subjected to head-on collisions and rollovers. Even animals like chimpanzees and pigs served as crash dummies. Moral and ethical objections prompted a progression from cadavers, animals and even live human volunteers to today’s tr icked-out crash-test dummies, which are designed to mimic nearly every human reaction to front, side and rear crashes. (Future areas that ANCAP will be testing include pedestrian impact zones on vehicles and rollover protection.) The typical ANCAP family of crash test dummies comprises three adults and several child-size dummies. A typical dummy contains three types of instr umentation – accelerometers, load sensors and motion sensors. The first of these measure acceleration in a particular direction. They are located all over each dummy’s body to measure the probability of injury at various points. Load sensors detect the amount of force on different par ts of the body during the crash. Motion sensors are placed in the chest to measure how much it deflects during a crash. Since crash-test dummies don’t break, they tend to hang around for a while, however after every test, all internal instrumentation need to be recalibrated ready for the next test. One dummy can cost anywhere from $125,000 to $400,000, so individual parts are replaced, instead of the entire dummy. After seeing and hearing crash site first-hand, and seeing a variety of these clever devices in action, I’m very happy that they exist – I just wish there was a better name for them, because they’re too important to be ‘dummies’! Not just dummies ANCAP has tested over 300 cars since 1993 and those ratings are available on the ANCAP website. If the car you are interested in is not there, accessing www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au has a comprehensive list of vehicle safety ratings based on ANCAP ratings and the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR). The UCSR data is based on statistics collected from crashes in Australia and New Zealand between 1982 and 2009 where a death or serious injury occurred. June / July 2012 23
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