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World gets first female crash test dummy

A researcher in Sweden has created a prototype of the world's first female crash test dummy.

A researcher in Sweden has created a prototype of the world's first female crash test dummy.

BioRID and EvaRID (Credit: Fred Chang, Humanetics)

We know what you're thinking: really? This is the first crash test dummy with a female body shape?

Yes. Yes, it is. Known as EvaRID, to the male model's BioRID, she's the brainchild of Anna Carlson, a researcher in the Division of Vehicle Safety, Department of Applied Mechanics at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

Carlsson's research is centred around whiplash injuries. All around the world, whiplash injuries have increased in incidence in the last 20 years, in some places, over 100 per cent — and women are twice more likely to be affected than men when hit from behind. But all the research, thus far, has been conducted on a male body type.

Even tests by the US Federal Government in 2010-2011, which were the first to use a smaller dummy, closer to the average adult female body weight, used a male body type — and those test found that the lighter body had a 47 per cent higher chance of serious injuries than the heavier male body — the body type on which all safety standards had been based upon, until very recently.

Unsurprisingly, Carlsson found that women move differently in impact situations — namely, women accelerate a fair bit faster than men under impact conditions, because car seat backs do not yield as much for women as they do for men, meaning that women rebound with more momentum.

Results from Carlsson's research (PDF) showing the acceleration differences for men and women. (Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Carlsson said in defence of her thesis:

I hope that my research will lead to improved whiplash protection for both women and men, when they are hit from behind in a collision. From a national economics perspective, it would be advantageous to adapt car protection systems to suit women, as well.

Although Carlsson's research is centred on whiplash injuries, her dummy has the potential to make cars far safer for everyone — for example, testing the limitations of seatbelts when it comes to a woman's body.

Carlsson said:

If we can lower the forward acceleration for both women and men during collisions, we can also significantly lower the risk of injury. One way of doing this is to manufacture a seat that yields backwards in a collision. Another way is to allow the upholstery padding to absorb the energy, meaning the seat frame does not move.

EvaRID, at this stage, is only a prototype, though. Carlsson hopes to continue developing the dummy to make it available for global crash testing.

So there you are, everyone. It's 2012 and maybe sometime soon, car safety standards will take women into account, too.