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Ford Aiming to Engineer a Digital Child

Virtual “dummy” could help save real kids.

by on Mar.31, 2011

Ford's Dr. Steve Rouhana with child crash dummies.

Can a virtual child help save the 1,300 or so real kids killed each year in motor vehicle accidents?

That’s what Ford Motor Co. is hoping.  The maker has launched a high-tech project to recreate the very complicated anatomy of a young child in digital form to make it easier to develop more advanced seatbelts and other safety systems.

“The virtual child will allow us to better understand how a youngster interacts with a restraint system,” explained Ford’s senior technical researcher Dr. Steve Rouhana, “so they can be made more effective.”

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The new project is the latest effort in safety research that, at Ford, goes back a half century.  Like its competitors, the maker routinely crashes prototypes of its future products to see how well they will perform in the real world.  But, in recent years, Ford has been steadily migrating from physical crash testing to digital simulations.

That has a number of advantages.  For one thing, it costs a lot less than producing dozens of hand-assembled prototypes, and it takes a lot less time.  And as the software gets better, the virtual crashes have become as accurate – sometimes even better – at reproducing a real world collision.


Heads Off to Vince and Larry!

Two crash “dummies” made U.S. drivers smart about seat belts.

by on Jul.14, 2010

Vince and Larry "crashing the party" at the Smithsonian Museum.

The original Vince and Larry crash test dummy costumes were donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History today.

These anthropomorphic test devices arguably had the greatest “impact” on auto safety in the U.S. than any other effort. They, without question,  remain two of the most effective public safety ambassadors in automotive history. (Click here for a vintage Vince and Larry performance)

From 1985 until 1988, these “dummies” promoted seat belt use in countless public service announcements and posters. It worked. During that time, public opinion about seat belt use reversed itself, and therefore thousands of lives have been saved. We will never know exactly how many.

Lighthearted yet Serious!

What we do know is that while in 1968, every new car in America came equipped with seat belts, only 10% of motorists used them. Today, we are up to a record high of 84%.

Thanks to Vince and Larry and the outreach program of The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the volunteer work of  the Leo Burnett ad agency -  people are buckling up.