Aging, obese crash test dummies in development to replicate US population

America's well-publicized weight problem and aging population of baby boomers is collaborating to bring about a change in the humble crash test dummy, as automakers and safety regulators are attempting to build vehicles even better suited to our changing population.

" Obese people are 78 percent more likely to die in a crash," notes Chris O'Connor, CEO of crash dummy producer Humanetics. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat." Because of this, CNN Tech is reporting that the company is developing obese test dummies. The company already has a 273-pound dummy that has a Body Mass Index of 35.

Along with weight, the increasing age of America's motoring public means the potential for injuries is even greater. According to CNN, the potential for serious injuries jumps by 20 percent for drivers over 50 and 40 percent for octogenarians. To counter this, Humanetics is attempting to come up with an age-appropriate dummy, with a prototype to be ready by next year.

All of this dummy work might be for naught, though.

"The way the industry is going is more towards computational modeling," Dr. Joel Stitzel, director of Wake Forest University's Center for Injury Biomechanics, told CNN. "It allows manufacturers to see things that dummies can't tell them, and they can more easily modify virtual models, such as adding subcutaneous fat to simulate larger people."

While we'll certainly miss the crash-test dummy videos, the appeal of this new approach pretty clear – the computational modeling costs more at first, but will eventually save on the cost of the most modern dummies, which can cost up to $500,000 per model.

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