Crash test dummies made cars safer (for males of average height)

“You are not limited by the design of physical mannequins. You can kind of replicate real fingers etc. From there we get more detailed answers, ”said Dr Jakobsen, adding that Volvo has developed its own similar tool in partnership with Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

The more precise data gathered from these tests would in turn help automakers design elements for different body types, such as seat belts or fully customizable airbag systems, Mr. O’Connor said.

None of these innovations, however, are cheap to adopt or mandate, and activists and lawmakers are pushing for regulatory change.

In January, the Center for Study of Responsive Law, a nonprofit research organization led by Mr. Nader, published a report to mark the 55th anniversary of its founding book with suggestions for updating current testing standards and regulations. One proposal would create a completely separate scoring system that “would apply women’s injury criteria to dummy test results.”

And in July, bipartisan bills were introduced in the House and Senate to investigate shortcomings in federal tests and standards. The House bill, for example, “would order a full Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of current federal vehicle safety tests and the impact of those tests on the safety of all drivers and passengers.” according to a press release on the legislation. The bill would also require an assessment of “the failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to use crash test dummies that represent the driving public, especially women, while assessing vehicle safety.” .

“I was surprised to learn of the allegations related to gender inequality in automotive safety testing,” Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Republican of Florida and co-signer of the House bill, said in the statement. “I think of my wife, my mother, my sister-in-law – and all the women in my life who made what they believed to be smart purchases for their family’s cars.”

“This important legislation will modernize the tests used and improve the safety of all drivers.”

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