Here’s Why Crash Test Dummies Costs up to $500,000

Before a new vehicle can receive any crash certification, it must be crashed endlessly from almost every angle imaginable. The result of these tests then determines the safety rating awarded. However, crash test dummies are perhaps the most integral part of these experiments. That’s because these dummies are filled with sensors and can record data over 10,000 times per second. Technology that advanced certainly isn’t cheap. According to Vanderbilt University, a single crash test dummy can cost up to $500,000.

Crash test dummies are subjected to incredible forces

Given the severity of the crash tests performed on new vehicles, crash test dummies are subjected to incredible forces. For starters, you’ve got the force of the vehicle impacting either a surface or being struck by another object. For example, in the head frontal crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the vehicle crashes while going around 40 mph. From there, the dummy is subjected to the forces exerted by the actual airbags. Additionally, the seatbelt places great strain on the dummy. It is also important to note that the variety of crashes performed means the dummies experience forces from all directions.

According to the IIHS, different scenarios require different crash test dummies. Aside from varying in just weight and height, specific dummy constructions exist for various tests. For example, the IIHS reports that the crash test dummy utilized in the rear impact tests has articulating vertebrae. The result is that the dummies’ physical structure allows them to experience the crash as a human would. This doesn’t even consider the plethora of sensors scattered throughout the dummy used to record all of the data from the accident.

A basic dummy costs around $130,000 to make

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According to Trusted Choice, the most basic crash test dummy costs around $130,000 to produce. From there, carmakers and testing agencies alike have to fill them with all of the necessary sensors required to record data. Trusted Source reports that the addition of the sensors quickly boosts the price to around $200,000.

However, Vanderbilt University reports that a GM engineer confirmed that the dummies they test cost around $500,000 each. One of GM’s dummy’s main benefits is that, according to ZDNet, it can transmit data over 10,000 times per second. The result is that engineers can then carefully revise their findings and determine exactly what kind of effects the crash would have on a human body.

To make things even more expensive, these evaluations require various sizes and shapes of crash test dummies. Meaning there has to be a test involving an average-sized male, female, child, and so forth. If each dummy costs upwards of $200,000, testing them all quickly becomes unbelievably expensive.

Crash test dummies have reportedly saved over 329,000 lives

An image of a crash test dummy used for vehicle testing.
Crash Test | Felix Kästle/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Aside from helping certify new vehicles, crash test dummies help save lives. According to Trusted Choice, dummies have reportedly saved over 329,000 lives since their introduction in 1960. When a vehicle fails a test, engineers are able to accurately determine what needs fixing in order to ensure greater safety.

So while they may be incredibly expensive, they are absolutely worth the price. Additionally, crash test dummies improve over time with more accurate sensors and data recording systems. On top of that, the IIHS and NHTSA are always adding new tests, finding ways to push the limits of new vehicle construction. The results of these efforts mean that new vehicles are some of the safest ever made.