The purpose is to ensure that a car design can pass a regulatory test first time and not run the risk of an expensive failure, according to Donal Mcnally, joint head of the Bioengineering Research Group at the University of Nottingham in the UK. "You could use software with models of crash test dummies to fine tune the time after an impact that an airbag is fired," he says. "That way you can find the optimal time to ensure you pass the regulations."
Ultimately these developments should make cars far safer. In addition, it raises the possibility of creating different versions of the same car for different markets. This would be expensive, but could result in cars sold in Japan being optimized for the safety of older people, while cars for the Chinese market could be designed for the safety of people who are, on average, smaller than Americans.
The work also may find its way into other parts of our lives, making an appearance on televisions or computer screens. "We are excited about the possibility of computer games companies using our human models," Dr Gayzick explains. "They have their own models already, but their movements are not as realistic, and they are not internally accurate."
That could be good news for gamers, but less so for the virtual humans themselves. After escaping repeated car crashes, they would be thrown into worlds of dragons, monsters or flesh eating zombies. Faced with that possibility, perhaps the idea of Hybrid III’s quiet retirement does not sound so bad after all.