Army acquires new test dummies for vehicle safety

Researchers with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, and industry partner DTS, take delivery of new manikins known as Gen 1 ATDs, or anthropomorphic test devices, at the DTS Michigan Technical Center in Novi, Michigan, July 19. From left, Hollie Pietsch, TARDEC; Terry Holdren, ARL; and Steve Moss, DTS. | U.S. Army Photo by Conrad Johnson, RDECOM

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Keeping Soldiers safe is a top priority for vehicle engineers. Army researchers partnered with industry and academia to develop the next generation crash test dummy. Together they designed a new device that will save lives.

The standard devices used to test occupant safety — commonly referred to as crash test dummies — was developed by the automotive industry in the 1970s. Now, the U.S. Army, along with its university and industry partners, has designed a manikin that reacts more like a human when an impact or blast comes from underneath a vehicle.

Researchers with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, and industry partner, DTS, assemble one of four new manikins recently delivered to the DTS Technical Center in Michigan. | Photo courtesy of DTS

Researchers with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as TARDEC, and industry partner—DTS, commemorated the delivery of four new manikins known as “Gen 1 ATD’s,” or anthropomorphic test devices, at the DTS Michigan Technical Center in Novi, Michigan, July 19.

“Today is a significant day for Army Research Laboratories and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command [RDECOM] because we are taking delivery of our first new generation of ATDs,” said Fred Hughes, program manager for the ARL Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin program. “It’s the first time we’ve developed a purpose-built mannequin that’s going to be used by the military to test underbody blast effects on military vehicles that are both in the fleet right now as well as in the future force.”

Hughes said the new manikins allow researchers to have a better idea of the types of injuries Soldiers sustain on the battlefield and stressed the importance of bringing Soldiers home safely.

Hollie Pietch, the TARDEC team lead for the ATD development was brought in from the auto industry where she worked on the management and development of crash-test dummies there at Ford Motor Company.

“At TARDEC we evaluate vehicles and vehicle technologies for occupant protection,” Pietch said. “Within our lab we use these crash-test dummies or ATDS to give us a sense of what would actually happen if a person were in an underbody blast type event in a simulated lab environment.”

She said the data can be used to improve the seat design that goes into a vehicle and feeds into the pipeline of further vehicle development and testing that happens at ARL.

After the ceremony, the team, and university partners from Duke University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Wayne State, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the University of Virginia received hands-on training for the new devices.

Researchers with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, and industry partner DTS, commemorated the delivery of four new manikins, known as Gen 1 ATDs, or anthropomorphic test devices, at the DTS Michigan Technical Center in Novi, Michigan, July 19.

“Today would not be possible without our industry partners at DTS who helped us get to the stage of actually having real hardware and to our university partners and the teams at ARL and TARDEC,” Hughes said. “I think it’s incredible the amount of folks that we have involved in this program to include some of the finest biomechanical universities in the country.”

Steve Moss, DTS business manager said the company has a history in safety and crash testing and developing electronics for the tests, but this is the first time for the Army.

“It’s been a significant honor and challenge and it’s been very rewarding both technically and thinking that we are helping out the U.S. warrior,” Moss said.

Officials said the Army hopes to acquire at least 10 field-able prototypes by next year.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL