In a long overdue development for automotive safety, researchers and engineers have introduced the SET 50F, the world’s first car crash dummy designed entirely on a female body. This innovation aims to address the existing gender disparity in car safety, where crash test dummies have historically been modeled after average male bodies.
According to studies in the US, women are 73 percent more likely to be injured in frontal road collisions. This alarming statistic is attributed to the fact that current crash test dummies are predominantly based on the average male physique.
Slimmed-Down Versions of Male Dummies
A report by the Government Accountability Office (GOA) says that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has known about the higher risks for females in crashes for over two decades but has not sufficiently addressed this problem.
The NHTSA uses female dummies that GAO called slimmed-down versions of male dummies. These are problematic because they don’t accurately reflect some aspects of female anatomy, such as less muscle mass and lower centers of gravity
New Dummy Modeled Entirely on the Average Female Body
Europe relies on the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) for safety assessments on new vehicles. Euro NCAP currently employs five models to represent adult car users, with only one intended to represent a small female occupant—the Hybrid III dummy, another a crash test dummy based on a smaller version of a male’s body.
The SET 50F crash test dummy distinguishes itself by being the first to be modeled entirely on a female body, addressing the shortcomings of previous models.
Both Males and Females Should be Represented
Astrid Linder, the director of traffic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, highlighted the exclusive nature of current testing standards. “In the minimum standard that is required for a car to be sold in the regulation, it says you have to use the model of an average male for all the testing full-stop. Both males and females should be equally represented when we assess the protection of the occupants or the users in the crash. By that, we will have an inclusive assessment, whereas today, it’s exclusive,” she explained.
The implications of the discrepancy in body types become evident in various crash scenarios, particularly where the female body’s unique characteristics are not accurately represented.
Accounting for Anatomical Differences
Studies in the United States have consistently highlighted the disparities in injuries sustained by men and women in car accidents. A 2019 study from the University of Virginia reported a 73 percent higher likelihood of injury for women. A 2021 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggested that factors such as the types of vehicles driven by women contribute to this statistic.
However, Tommy Pettersson, a research engineer on the SET 50F project, emphasized the importance of accounting for anatomical differences. “The muscles in the neck are weaker normally in a woman, so if you compare it with a male dummy, this neck is more flexible and has more movements if you perform exactly the same crash test at the same speed and acceleration.” The ultimate goal is to develop safer seats and features that cater to both men and women.
The unveiling of the SET 50F marks a significant step towards gender-inclusive safety standards in the automotive industry. With the hope that this innovation will lead to better-designed vehicles, the SET 50F represents a commitment to creating safer roads for everyone.
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.