Nine major automakers and two automotive suppliers have formed a group to look into and develop virtual crash tests that they say will be more realistic than violently smashing cars into immovable barriers.

DaimlerChrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Peugeot-Citroen, Renault and Toyota joined suppliers TRW and Takata last year to form the Global Human Body Models Consortium LLC. The group is expected to announce its plans today at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit.

And just what are their plans? They have recruited 40 research and university groups worldwide to develop "virtual humans" that will simulate crash test dummies which, they say, will provide better accident prediction data. The group hopes to have the project wrapped up in 2011. The companies will split the budgeted $18 million cost, but are looking to Uncle Sam and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for a funding boost.

GM spokesman Alan Adler told the Associated Press that the data acquired from simulated tests would still be confirmed using good old crash testing.

Ford has a leg up on the group, having already developed a virtual adult male it uses to develop interiors and some safety devices. TRW also does some simulated tests on their restraint systems, pictured above.

[Source: The Associated Press via Journal and Courier Online]