“Every possible avenue for human safety has been addressed by this company”
— Steve Goldner, Senior Project Engineer, with Humanetics Since 1973.
The father of anthropomorphic dummy testing
Our history begins with Samuel W. Alderson.
In 1952 Sam founded Alderson Research Laboratories,
the first of the companies that would become Humanetics. The company soon won a contract to create an anthropomorphic dummy for testing air and spacecraft ejection seats, helmets and restraint systems. Until then, the standard test protocols used flour sacks and sandbags.
In collaboration with Sierra Engineering Co., Alderson created the ancestor of all crash test dummies, appropriately named Sierra Sam. Later, Alderson would continue to develop and refine the concept as applied to automotive testing, leading to the familiar crash test dummy models still in use today.
Alderson passed away in 2005 at the age of 90. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2013 as the creator of a battery-powered prosthetic arm (patented in 1952), a human-equivalent dummy for testing radiation exposure (patented in 1961) synthetic wounds for emergency training (patented in 1962), and many other inventions promoting human health and safety.
However, by far his most consequential work was the invention and continuous improvement of automotive crash test dummies (patented in 1981), leading to an estimated 330,000 lives spared and millions of debilitating injuries prevented around the world.
The beginnings of automotive crash testing
From the first traffic death in 1869 until the 1950s, the automotive industry had paid little attention to safety, and any testing that manufacturers did perform was done with pigs and other animals or with human volunteers and cadavers.
In 1966, Ralph Nader’s seminal book Unsafe at Any Speed became a best-seller, and the U.S. Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which would lead to creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, or NHTSA, in 1970. These events and others demanded the development of crash test dummies that could more faithfully replicate human anatomical response to the full range of potential crash forces.
The first crash test dummies specifically for the automotive industry were Sam Alderson’s VIP series, introduced in 1968, which included average male, large male and small female “vehicular impact personnel” for frontal crash testing. In 1971, features of the VIP series along with parts from Sierra Engineering were incorporated by General Motors into the Hybrid I, offering improved biofidelity and greater repeatability of results.
With NHTSA sponsorship, further upgrades were incorporated into the Hybrid II series, which was introduced in 1973 and became the first dummy to be officially entered into the 49 CFR Part 572 standards for anthropomorphic test devices.
Advancing the state of the art
The VIP, Hybrid I and Hybrid II dummies were primarily useful for testing seatbelt designs at a time when over half of serious injuries and fatalities were due to head trauma. While the Hybrid II is still used to this day in aircraft testing, a more robust and sophisticated dummy was needed for automotive manufacturers to develop effective techniques for also preventing neck, thoracic, leg and other injuries, in humans of all ages, sizes and shapes.
This need led to the development of the Hybrid III series, introduced in 1978 and still required for frontal impact testing as specified in FMVSS 208 and part 572. Humanetics’ predecessor company, in partnership with the Society of Automotive Engineers, Ohio State University, and others, continued to advance the state of the art with Hybrid III improvements and expansion of the series to include large male and small female models. Child models were introduced to the series beginning in 1994.
Leading a global industry into the future
In 1999, Humanetics acquired the dummy development and manufacturing business of TNO Automotive, Europe's leading and largest dummy company, creating the first truly global dummy development and manufacturing company.
Throughout its history and continuing today, Humanetics has been key to the development and manufacture of a complete range of test dummies. These include side-impact, rear-impact, children, pedestrian models and more—plus the Test device for Human Occupant Restraint, or THOR, the next generation in dummy biofidelity, instrumentation, repeatability, durability and user-friendliness.
In the 21st century, Humanetics has greatly expanded its mission to encompass a complete range of technologies to protect life in motion.
For example, we provide test equipment for calibration and certification of test dummy instrumentation. Our iCrash Technology™ provides fully integrated onboard data acquisition systems, ensuing greater flexibility, improved repeatability, and reduced setup times during testing. We offer computer-aided analytics using virtual models that replicate our physical dummies in software, providing a cost-effective complement to physical product testing.
Our UltraFlat Overrunable robot, or UFO, enables testing of advanced driver assistance systems designed to avoid collisions by minimizing or correcting for human errors. It’s an extremely low-profile, remote-controlled platform that can be mounted with targets representing cars, cyclists, pedestrians, pets and more to test vehicle crash-avoidance sensors and controls. We also provide driving robots, accident reconstruction software, and much more.
Beyond automotive safety
Humanetics also continues to lead the industry in aerospace and military safety testing equipment, and we are actively expanding our safety mission into other realms.
For example, we have added HITEC Sensor Developments to our portfolio, providing hostile-environment sensors and strain gages for safety applications in marine, transportation, aerospace and other industries. We have also added Fibercore for its specialized fiber optic systems, used in a vast array of sensing and communication applications.
In growing our business, we have established offices and manufacturing facilities around the world, and we consult with many leading laboratories and research institutions to advance the cause of human safety.
We believe the project of creating a safer world never ends. In fact, we continually seek new beginnings. From our rich, proven history through to a future of continuous innovation, look to Humanetics as the human safety leader.
Test Dummy Timeline
1949: Alderson Research Labs and Sierra Engineering create the first crash-test dummy, Sierra Sam, to test aircraft ejection seats, aviation helmets and pilot restraints.
1950s: Cornell Aeronautical Laboratories studies vehicle accidents to determine how to make cars safer. Gard Dummy, a research dummy, is produced by Grumman-Alderson.
1950: Hollaman Air Force Base conducts crash tests using Alderson and Sierra 50th percentile dummies.
1950–1970: Continuing developments lead to the creation of automotive crash test dummies based on aerospace models. 50th and 95th percentile males and 5th percentile female dummies are produced.
1968: Sam Alderson introduces the VIP series, the first dummy specifically designed for automotive testing.
1971: The Hybrid I is introduced, a standardization of the Alderson and Sierra 50th percentile male dummies.
1972: The Hybrid II is developed, with improved shoulders, spine, knees and documentation.
1973: The standard Hybrid II 50th percentile dummy is introduced. NHTSA contracts with GM to produce improved heads, necks, joints, ribs, knees, human-like posture and a new spine design (ATD 502). Highway Safety Research Institute receives contract from Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association to develop a 50th percentile male dummy with a new head, neck, thorax, spine, lumbar, pelvis, legs and joints.
1976: Hybrid III is introduced. General Motors improves ATD 502 with a new neck, thorax and more transducers for more extensive data.
1979: NHTSA contracts with the University of Michigan Transportation Institute to produce a new side impact dummy, a Hybrid II-type design with a new thorax. The project continues until 1987.
1981: Samuel W. Alderson is granted a patent, titled Anthropomorphic Dummy for Use in Vehicle Crash Testing.
1988–1989: Humanetics and SAE develop Hybrid III small female and large male dummies. General Motors and SAE develop Biosid, a Hybrid III-based biofidelic side-impact dummy. University of Michigan and Wayne State University receive NHTSA contract to develop an advanced dummy. First Technology Safety Systems is a subcontractor.
1995: First prototype of THOR is developed, the next-generation Test device for Human Occupant Restraint.
1995: Humanetics begins offering virtual dummies based on physical models to enable virtual crash testing via Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE).
1995–1996: First Technology Safety Systems and Occupant Safety Research Partnership jointly develop the SID IIs, a small adult/teenager side impact dummy for side air bag development.
1996: First Technology Safety Systems develops the FT-Arup™ FE-Model Series, a highly precise and detailed finite element crash test dummy computer model.
1997: First Technology Safety Systems (FTSS) and Denton ATD work with industry participants to begin developing a new globally accepted side impact dummy called “WorldSID”, which was based on a 50th% male size.
1999: Humanetics acquires the dummy development and manufacturing business of TNO Automotive to become a global dummy development and manufacturing company.
2004: WorldSID made its official debut in June 2004 at a meeting of the Working Party on Passive Safety at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
2004: The development of the WorldSID 5th percentile female dummy began in 2004 and was coordinated under the Advanced Protection Systems project (APROSYS).
2009: Development of the WorldSID 5th was completed.2011: Humanetics is contracted by NHTSA to develop the THOR-50M advanced frontal impact dummy.
2018: Humanetics acquires DSD Testing to play a major role not only in crash testing, but in crash-avoidance testing.
Automotive Crash Safety Timeline
1930s: Fatalities reach 15.6 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Automobile designers begin to consider safety issues.
1950s: First cars with significant safety features introduced, including a seatbelt in the Nash Airflyte and the first automotive air bag patent.
1966: Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed becomes a best-seller, leading to passage of seat belt laws in 49 states and the eventual creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.
1966: President Johnson signs the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, requiring the government to set safety standards for new vehicles.
1968: First U.S. federal car safety standards introduced.
1969: Nixon administration proposes passive restraints to protect unbelted passengers.
1970: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, established.
1971: Ford Motor Company builds an experimental air bag fleet.
1973: General Motors manufactures 1,000 Chevrolets with experimental air bags. Oldsmobile Toronado becomes the first commercially available passenger car with an air bag.
1977: The Carter administration announces that all new cars sold in U.S. must have front air bags or passive safety belts that fasten automatically by 1984.
1978: NHTSA administers the first 35 mph frontal crash test. Tennessee becomes first state to require use of child restraint seats.
1981: The Reagan administration delays the Carter passive restraint rule by one year. It is later canceled altogether.
1983: The Supreme Court rules against the Reagan Administration and orders NHTSA to review the case for air bags.
1985: NHTSA promotes seatbelt use with its “You Could Learn a Lot From a Dummy” campaign, featuring fictitious crash-test dummies “Vince” and “Larry.”
1986: NHTSA allows automakers to meet the passive restraint requirement with a driver side-only air bag through 1990, a date that would later be extended.
1988: Chrysler becomes first U.S. auto maker to make driver side air bags standard equipment.
1991: President George H.W. Bush signs a law requiring driver and passenger side air bags in all cars as of 1998, and trucks as of 1999.
1993: Automakers are required to begin phasing in of passenger air bags in cars and light trucks. NHTSA introduces the 5-Star Safety Ratings Program.
1999: All new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. must have driver and passenger side airbags.
2001: NHTSA adds a crash avoidance rating, measuring the risk of vehicle rollover.
2007: Electronic Stability Control (ESC) required on passenger and light-duty vehicles.