Ford’s new digital child model “just like building a car”

Ford is researching one of the world’s first digital human child body models that is destined to serve as a digital dummy for computer crash testing in its cars.

The model is being developed to help enhance the safety of future Ford car models.

Children and adults aged between 1 and 34 have been identified by Ford as those most at risk of death as a cause of car crashes. Ford needs a digital model that represents a child to ensure its cars’ restraint systems are optimised for safety for smaller bodies.

Ford has been researching and developing a sophisticated human adult model for ten years, with body parts and organs replicated so scientists can understand what happens to the adult body in a car crash. Now, scientists will soon have a human child replica to study. 

"Our restraint systems are developed to help reduce serious injuries and fatalities in the field, and they have proven to be very effective," Dr. Steve Rouhana, Senior Technical Leader for Safety, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

"But crash injuries still occur. The more you know about the human body, the more we can consider how to make our restraint systems even better.”

"A child’s body is very different from an adult’s. Building a digital human model of a child will help us design future systems that offer better protection for our young passengers."

The digital models will be used to understand to how improve restraint system effectiveness through understanding injury mechanisms, while a crash test dummy will still be used to measure the effect of forces on the body.

According to Rouhana, building the human digital model is just like building a car.

"Building the model of a person is just like building a model of a car," he said. 

"You start with your surface geometry for each component and any subcomponent it contains – in this case the geometry of the human body and its internal organs."

After gathering data through medical scans and anatomical texts, the researchers build a model section by section, creating regions of the body. The brain in Ford’s adult human digital model was reportedly constructed as a separate component, detailed down to the stem, the gray matter and the fluid between the layers.

The components are then joined into a virtual human body. Then, using mathematical and analytical tools combined with available body data, researchers are reportedly able to determine the effects of a crash – and the pressure of a restraint system – on the adult or child’s body.

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