Ford of Europe’s crash test laboratory in Merkenich, Germany, is home to more than 40 crash test dummies ranging from tiny tots to 95th percentile men weighing 100kg. The majority are Hybrid III models designed for use in frontal impact tests and it takes technicians approximately half a day to install one of these in a vehicle, ready for testing. Some members of the Ford crash test dummy family can be equipped with up to 200 sensors.
Each dummy is identified by a number, rather than a name. In the final minutes leading up to a test, the dummies and measuring equipment are repeatedly checked to make sure all crash data is captured.
An alarm sounds in the crash test laboratory just before an offset deformable barrier test commences. Meanwhile, powerful lights and high-speed video cameras are trained on a deformable metal barrier – the point of impact. The vehicle is then winched into the object at 64 km/h. Within milliseconds of making contact, seatbelt pre-tensioners and airbags deploy, while the high-speed cameras capture every detail as the Hybrid III dummies experience extreme deceleration.
Less than 10 minutes after the point of impact, technicians will begin the process of removing the instrumentation from the dummies, and the dummies from the crashed vehicle. All crashed vehicles are sent to the crusher for recycling.
Hybrid III dummies have metal spines, moveable necks, steel ribcages, vinyl skin and knees that respond in a lifelike way. After crashing, they are examined for defects and then returned to a dummy holding area. Some are suspended from hooks fitted to the top of their heads. Others are stored seated.
Each dummy will typically sit through approximately 10 tests before being sent to a special crash test dummy facility for repair and recalibration. It takes approximately two days to give each dummy a full health check. Some of the recalibration tests involve swinging metal objects into the dummies’ heads, knees, and chests with pendulums. Among the most common dummy injuries are broken ribs.