​People Are Getting So Fat We're Making Obese Crash Test Dummies

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Humanetics has been developing crash test dummies since the 1950s, beginning with aerospace research and eventually moving into automotive world. Now, 60 years later, it's developing the first obese crash dummy because, dammit, we love our 64-ounce Cokes and want to order a Doritos Locos Taco through an app.

Chris O'Conner, the CEO of Humanetics, spoke with CNN about the company's latest developments and how the world of dummies is evolving to provide more data through more sensors – over 130 in the latest models they produce. But they're also keeping tabs on the most common injuries, and with skyrocketing weights in the U.S., they have to change the dummy's designs.


"Obese people are 78 percent more likely to die in a crash," O'Connor told CNN. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat."


That's led Humanetics to design a new prototype dummy that weighs in at 273 pounds and has a body mass index of 35 – 5 points greater than what the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute classifies as obese.

The company is also working on new models for the elderly, where serious injury risk for an 80-year-old goes up by 40 percent. But O'Conner recognizes that the era of the physical crash test dummy is likely on its way out.


"The way the industry is going is more towards computational modeling," says O'Conner. "Auto manufacturers are looking to develop virtual scenarios they can run on computers...which allow them to look at more specific anatomy." That should make it easy to model our 400-pound progeny in the future.