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Ford to build virtual crash test kid

The Ford Motor Co. is developing the one of the world’s first digital human child-body models for computer crash testing that will lead to future safety technologies.


April 5, 2011
by PLANT STAFF

DEARBORN, Mich.: The Ford Motor Co. is developing the one of the world’s first digital human child-body models for computer crash testing that will lead to future safety technologies.

“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 with Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “We want to better understand how injuries to younger occupants may be different.”

The research is part of a decade-long project that was completed in 2004 to build a computer version of an adult human that accurately details body parts and organs so scientists will better understand what to a person’s body during a crash.

But digital models are just for research into more effective restraint systems: crash dummies are still used for vehicle development to measure the effect of forces on the body.

Data was gathered from medical scans and anatomical texts that allowed researchers to build a model section by section, creating regions of the body. The brain 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 joined into a virtual human body and using mathematical and analytical tools combined with available body data, researchers can determine the effects of a crash – and the pressure of a restraint system – on the body.

But a child’s body is very different from an adult’s and there isn’t a lot of similar detailed data available.

Ford researchers have entered into a one-year agreement with Tianjin University of Science and Technology in China, which is working with Tianjin Children’s Hospital, to obtain child geometry and basic body information from sources such as MRIs and CAT scans provided by volunteers.

All other information for the project will be obtained from public domain literature.

Ford researchers started the project after monitoring and studying injury trends for children who generally are more vulnerable in crashes.
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