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How computer models work with crash test dummies to make cars safer

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Researchers are using computer models made with low-cost scanners to help cover a whole range of body types during vehicle crash tests.

Flickr crash test dummies
Flickr crash test dummies

Crash test dummies are important for keeping us safe while in a vehicle, but they only cover a small range of body types. But researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute are attempting to fix this through computer models. As Wired reports, by using a variety of scanners — including a $220 device typically used by video game developers — researchers are able to create models to represent a number of body types, that are used to make adjustments to things like airbags and seatbelts. "We're building a representation of a huge range of body shapes and dimensions," UMTRI's Matt Reed told Wired. The models aren't a replacement for crash test dummies, but instead serve as an extra tool for adjusting the safety-related elements of a vehicle — and they have the added benefit of being a whole lot cheaper than an actual crash test.