Why has it taken so long to come up with this?
Before you get to drive your Honda Civic, someone has to crash it. It's true in both the US and Europe, and while regulations between us and our fellow humans across the pond can vary, there is a single common thread: the crash test dummy. But there's a problem - they're all dudes. And now, the Swedes have a solution.
Being the pioneers of safety they are, a group of Swedish academics decided male-only dummies weren't right. So, they made a female crash dummy. The world's first, in fact.
Before we get too far into why this is so important (and it is), a quick note about the potentially horrifying images. We had to whip them up ourselves, on account of the fact the study didn't include suitable images. We should also note that for now, the female crash dummy is just a virtual model.
We've linked the abstract to the study below, via ScienceDirect, which states that a shocking number of soft tissue neck injuries (whiplash) in car accidents can be attributed almost exclusively to women, and poor seat design. Per the study, injury statistics have since the mid-1960s consistently shown that "females are subject to a higher risk of sustaining this type of injury than males, on average twice the risk of injury."
On top of that, the study by Linder et. al shows that "some recently developed anti-whiplash systems have revealed they provide less protection for females than males." Obviously, equal protection for all in the event of a crash is incredibly important.
The study, being conducted in Europe, does not make mention of any female crash standards in the US but does say that Europe's NCAP doesn't accurately represent the female part of the population due to the lack of a dummy representing an average female. Hence the virtual model. Keep in mind some crash tests can be run in computer simulations, so this dummy will still have benefits.
Simulations were run by the team with both a virtual female model and a male one. The results were then compared with earlier results from simulations run in the exact same test setup. Three "crash pulse severities of the Euro NCAP low severity rear impact test were applied. The motion of the neck, head and upper torso were analyzed in addition to the accelerations and the Neck Injury Criterion (NIC)."
Linder et. al also states that the response of their virtual models was compared to the response of volunteers and the male model, as well as to the response of a physical dummy. The result? "Simulations with the virtual male and female dummy models revealed differences in dynamic response related to the crash severity, as well as between the two dummies in the two different seat models."
Linder et. al sums the facts up far better than we can: "The results of the study highlight the need for an extended test matrix that includes an average female dummy model to evaluate the level of occupant protection different seats provide in vehicle crashes."
Linder et. al argues that female models will provide developers with new tools to ensure that anyone, from men to women to children will be safe in a crash. On top of that, new female models would ensure that seats in cars adequately protect all occupants from whiplash.