A new, fatter crash test dummy has joined Australian safety authorities to better reflect our growing waistlines – and to meet new global standards that come into force this year.
The new $1.4 million crash test dummy – named Thor (Test Human Occupant Restraint) – will join the existing family of five safety mannequins of various sizes, who have been used in thousands of simulated crashes in Australia over the past three decades.
The new crash test dummy is critical to measuring upgraded safety standards introduced this year in Australia and Europe, and has more realistic proportions to reflect how much the average adult has grown over the past few decades.
The proportions of the previous driver crash test dummies were established in the 1970s, when the average adult size was smaller than it is today.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), which rates the safety of the most popular cars on sale in Australia, is due to use the new crash test dummy for the first time later this year.
As part of running changes to improve vehicle safety, from this year ANCAP and EuroNCAP will use the new, larger crash test dummy in the driver’s seat – and one of the previous ‘Hybrid III’ crash test dummies will occupy the front passenger seat – during the new dynamic 50kmh crash test into a moving 50/50 offset barrier travelling in the opposite direction at 50kmh.
For the past 25 years, the equivalent crash test was done at 64km/h into a fixed 60/40 offset barrier (where 40 per cent of the car overlaps the barrier), and both front seats were occupied by a ‘Hybrid III’ dummy.
A statement from ANCAP said that, compared to the long-standing ‘Hybrid III’ crash test dummy, Thor is “more representative of the human shape” and “reflects the changes in adult size across the general population”.
Thor also has “significantly expanded instrumentation”, with more measuring points in the chest, abdomen, shoulders, pelvis – and for the “rotational acceleration” of the head – and “better represents human movement, limitations, and vulnerabilities”.
While ANCAP does not have the authority to approve or ban vehicles in Australia, the independent body sets benchmark crash safety standards that most government and business fleets aim to meet. ANCAP also provides star rating information to private buyers, with more than 500 current and historical crash test results listed on its website.
For example, today, most mining companies, big businesses, and government departments won’t allow certain types of vehicles unless they have a five-star safety rating.
ANCAP is funded by state and federal governments, insurance companies, and roadside assistance providers such as the NRMA, RACV, RACQ, RAA, RAC, RACT and the AANT.
ANCAP conducts crash tests and assesses “active safety” technology including autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping aids in Australia – to international standards – and shares the data with EuroNCAP or other overseas bodies.
ANCAP also applies star ratings to cars sold in Australia based on data received from tests conducted overseas by EuroNCAP.
However, figures from 2019 show that, although 12 local tests accounted for the 42 results it published last year, those 12 tests in fact represented more than half of the cars by sales volume. ANCAP also tests in Australia a significant number of vehicles not sold in Europe.
ANCAP also routinely conducts audit tests – reassessing certain right-hand-drive models even though they have already been crash tested overseas – to make sure there are no anomalies in left- and right-hand-drive models.
In addition, in recent years Hyundai and Kia have both upgraded certain new-release vehicles after local testing by ANCAP found them to have only a four-star rating due to the structure of the cars, rather than simply a lack of advanced safety tech.
The arrival of Thor means Australasian crash test authorities know have six types of crash test dummies – of varying shapes and sizes, male and female – for the numerous tests that make up safety star ratings and scores:
50th percentile male driver, frontal 50/50 offset test into a moving barrier, car travelling at 50kmh, barrier travelling at 50kmh in opposite direction;
Hybrid III (male)
50th percentile male front passenger, frontal 50/50 offset test into a moving barrier, car travelling at 50kmh, barrier travelling at 50kmh in opposite direction;
50th percentile male driver sitting in a car struck side-on by ‘vehicle’ travelling at 50kmh;
50th percentile male driver sitting in a car on a moving platform that strikes a pole at an oblique angle at 32kmh;
50th percentile male driver sitting in a car to measure injury in two far-side impact tests;
Hybrid III (female)
5th percentile female driver in a 50kmh, zero offset fixed barrier test;
5th percentile female back seat passenger in a 50kmh, zero offset fixed barrier test;
10-year-old child back seat passenger in the frontal 50/50 offset test into a moving barrier, car travelling at 50kmh, barrier travelling at 50kmh in opposite direction;
6-year-old child back seat passenger in the frontal 50/50 offset test into a moving barrier, car travelling at 50kmh, barrier travelling at 50kmh in opposite direction;
10-year-old child back seat passenger in a car struck side-on by a ‘vehicle’ travelling at 50kmh;
6-year-old child back seat passenger in a car struck side-on by a ‘vehicle’ travelling at 50kmh.