Ford Motor Company and the Society of Automotive Engineers will embark this fall on an international study of a more lifelike prototype abdominal insert for pediatric crash dummies.

Pediatric crash dummies with the more lifelike abdomen will help in analyzing the risk of serious injury to children during car accidents.  Independent studies show that children ages 4 to 8 are at higher risk for injuries to the spine and abdomen.

"This effort furthers Ford's commitment to help protect families by focusing on one of the most common collision-related injuries among children," said Dr. Steve Rouhana, a senior technical leader with Ford's Passive Safety Research and Advanced Engineering Department.  "It will help us better understand the effects of crash forces on children's abdomens."

Ford developed the more lifelike abdomen in conjunction with Dearborn-based STR Systems, a safety technology and research firm; The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Wayne State University in Detroit; the University of Virginia; and Takata Corporation, a global manufacturer of automotive safety systems.

The prototype pediatric abdomen insert is similar in size and shape to that of a 6-year-old child and is made of multiple layers of liquid silicone that, when solidified, forms a tough silicone shell.  Inside is a set of electrodes immersed in a conductive fluid that comprise the sensors for the abdomen – six electrodes at the front of the abdomen and one reference electrode at the back.

Initial testing of how the pediatric abdomen responds to belt loading was just completed.  For these tests, the abdomen was placed in a pediatric crash dummy retrofitted with a prototype pelvis created by the University of Michigan.  According to Rouhana, this pelvis is more humanlike, reflecting the rounded shape of an average 6-year-old pelvis.

"In a typical crash dummy the pelvis area is very square. And when a safety belt interacts with this more square pelvis during a crash it will catch almost every time," Rouhana said.  "With a more realistic rounded pelvis, the belt may slip above the pelvic bone, which can be associated with abdominal injuries during a crash."

Ultimately, the data gathered using both actual and virtual crash test dummies may help Ford and other members of the consortium to develop and bring to market innovative safety technologies more quickly.

To further ensure accurate test results, data gathered from studies of actual car crashes where 4 to 8-year-old children sustained abdominal injuries was used.  The team from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia published a paper in 2005 showing that the risk of abdominal injury in children 4 to 8 years old was higher than that of children in the 0- to 3-year-old or 9- to 15-year-old ranges. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia also provided shape and size data for children from a study of volunteer subjects -- real children -- from their patient population.

Virtual Body Modeling
Along with the development of the pediatric crash dummy, Ford is conducting global collaborative research and development activities in virtual human body modeling to advance crash safety technology throughout the industry.

The computer models, which represent human beings in minute detail, could help scientists determine and better understand injuries that are likely to result from a vehicle crash. This research, which has been ongoing for at least 10 years, already has led to the creation of a full adult body model and is currently driving development of a child body model.

The body models duplicate regions of the body such as the head, neck, ribcage, abdomen, thoracic and lumbar spine, internal organs of the chest and abdomen, pelvis, and the upper and lower extremities.

"Human Body Models may reduce physical testing on component and full-scale levels during vehicle development," said Jesse Ruan, passive safety engineer in Ford's Research and Advanced Engineering. "It will also be used to develop more sophisticated instrumentation that could lead to more human-like crash dummies."

Since 2006, Ford has worked with a group of 10 other automakers and suppliers known as the Global Human Body Models Consortium LLC on human body modeling research and development in order save money, speed results through the elimination of duplicate work, and standardize vehicle development tools for enhanced crash safety.

Child Safety Restraints
Ford recommends all children should be properly restrained in an appropriate child seat in the rear seat whenever possible.

* Infants should always ride in a child seat facing the rear until they are at least one year old.
* Convertible child seats allow both forward and rear facing options for children greater than 22 lbs., consistent with the seat manufacturer's instructions, the rear facing option should be used as long as possible.
* Any child who has exceeded the weight limit for a forward facing child seat, typically 40 lbs. should be properly restrained in a booster seat with lap/shoulder belt.