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The History of Crash Test Dummies

Early crash tests were originally done using unoccupied cars, cadavers, and animals, most notably pigs. Crash test dummies were first developed in the 1940s for the U.S. Air Force to use in the testing of aircraft ejection seats. The very first dummy was made by the Sierra Engineering Company and Alderson Research Laboratories and aptly named Sierra Sam. But it wasn’t until 1968 that Alderson debuted the first crash test dummy created specifically for automotive testing, known as the VIP (short for “Vehicular Impact Personnel”). Up until the 1970s, crash test dummies were made by independent companies. Then in 1971, General Motors created their own crash test dummy, the Hybrid I, in response to what leadership considered inadequate existing options. The next year, they followed it up with the Hybrid II, which mimicked human anatomy more closely. Later, the Hybrid III was created and offered much more information than previous models, which had mostly been used to measure the effectiveness of seatbelts rather than the effects of a crash. The line was expanded in the 1980s and child versions were added in 1994. In 1985, the NHTSA unveiled an advertising campaign featuring crash test dummies named Vince and Larry that was intended to get passengers and drivers to use their seatbelts. The ads were highly successful, and Vince and Larry are now housed at the Smithsonian. To this day, the Hybrid III is considered the industry standard for crash dummies, but is designed for use in frontal impact tests, so many other specially designed crash dummies have also joined the ranks, including the SID (Side Impact Dummy) and ES-2, the BioRID, which is used in rear impact tests, and several child-sized dummies, including the CAMI and CRABI models. Today’s lineup of crash test dummies helps to provide valuable insights and safety information for car manufacturers and drivers.

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