Interview with Astrid Linder, creator of the first female dummy

Astrid Linder at work

Swedish researcher Astrid Linder, creator of the first female crash test dummy, receives the WOW (Woman of Worth) award by Women’s World Car of the Year award

Road safety researcher Astrid Linder works at VTI, the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. Linder has received the WOW (Woman of Worth) award from Mia Liström, one of the judges of the Women’s World Car of the Year in Sweden. The award was given for her work on the development of a female dummy. With this award, the Women’s World Car of the Year honors the work of professional women who have distinguished themselves in the automotive world.
Astrid Linder is also an assistant professor at Chalmers University, Sweden. Her work focuses on research in crash safety and biomechanics, with a particular focus on the development of dummies to assess risk in the event of an accident. One of Astrid’s goals is to have crash protection studied for both men and women. Together with her colleagues at VTI and Mats Svensson of Chalmers University, they have developed the first medium-sized female crash test dummy.

How did your journey in road safety begin?
I studied engineering physics at Chalmers during the 90s and after graduation I looked for a job and found a position as a PhD student at Chalmers that caught my interest. The assignment involved developing the world’s first crash test dummy for low-speed collisions to assess the protection for soft tissue injuries of the neck, so-called whiplash injuries. At the time, there was no dummy or test for the type of collision that is the most common resulting in disabling injuries. It was a big project in the 90s. The financing came from Vinnova (Swedsih Innovation Agency), which was previously called KFB and was a collaboration of Volvo, Saab, Autoliv, Folksam and Chalmers. The crash test dummy created was the size of an average man, as that is the model of the occupant that we use as the driver in both frontal and side impact testing. After that, I worked abroad in Australia and England. I also have long experience of working as a manager in the area of road safety.

How did the idea of creating a female crash dummy start?
As part of my doctoral studies, I did a literature review and found that women were at higher risk of sustaining whiplash injuries than men. Then it became a logical next step for me to work to design a model that represents that part of the population the women. Since we evaluate the protection against injuries with a model of an average man. We cannot today, in testing new cars, assess how well cars also protect the female part of the population. How the body is constructed does not differ between men and women when you look at the big features such as skeletal parts, organs and soft parts except the reproductive organs which are not essential in crash safety. Differences that are important to include in models for evaluating protection against injuries in a low-speed rear-end collision are things like upper body geometry, such as shoulder width and center of gravity of the torso, which are higher for men than women.
Today there is no possibility of assessing the protection of a new car for the entire adult population. Crash safety evaluation is done using an average (geometry, weight and height) man as the driver. In addition we test with child models. To represent children, we have child dummies in many different sizes. Volvo has done tests with a pregnant model where the study was about how the fetus is protected. However, protection for women was not studied, as the model was not designed as an average woman. What drives me are the injury statistics that provide the basis for what needs to be developed and to make it possible to better identify the innovations that give the entire population the best protection. The work has been going on for more than 20 years.

What setbacks have you encountered over the years?
The biggest challenges and setbacks over the years have been finding research funding. My drive is that future crash tests should be done with crash dummies/tools that inclusively represent both the female and male so that we can identify in testing the cars that give the entire population the best protection in the event of a crash. But getting there requires more work. In the regulations for type approval tests used in Europe, UNECE, it is clearly stated that what is required for roadworthiness tests is that a model of an average man must be used. And as long as it says so in the regulations, the change will not come from society’s demands. The companies follow what needs to be followed, nothing more can be required. To get ahead, cooperation, knowledge and will are needed, among other things.

It is important how we vote and what we get involved in, as it affects how the regulations develop. In terms of how difficult something is, developing a covid vaccine is incredibly much more difficult than developing a model of the average female for crash testing and the development of the vaccine was successfully done in a short amount of time. A lot has to do with what we decide to do. Already in 2012, together with Volvo, Chalmers, and partners from Europe, we produced a mathematical crash test dummy model of an average woman so that virtual tests with male and female models could be performed. After this, it was widely believed that it was too difficult and expensive to develop a crash test dummy that represented the female part of the population. We managed to get funding from the EU for the recently completed project where we designed both a mathematical and physical model of both an average woman and man.

What does a typical working day look like for you?
For almost 14 years I have been a manager, which has meant all the work that managership requires. Today, I do not have that role but I am a professor and at VTI I work a lot with research, where I also chair meetings, manage project applications for funding with various partners and present research results around the world. After the BBC news channel did a feature on the female crash dummy, I still have some contact with the press and journalists which is encouraging. I also read and write a lot, which also means reviewing articles for conferences and journals.
Do you enjoy driving?
I like driving a lot, I drive a Saab 9-5 with a manual gearbox. I really enjoy that car, it offers so much driving pleasure with great handling, I like the way it responds when driving and that’s important to me. I haven’t found a good replacement for it yet. There are very good support systems in modern cars, but there is nothing that has attracted me financially. I got my driver’s license in Stockholm at the age of 18 and since then I have always liked driving. But I also like to go by train and bus and also like cycling.

How does it feel to receive this award?
I feel very honored and happy that the projects are receiving attention and appreciation. And together we can make a difference. At car manufacturers there is not one person that builds a car, to make a car requires collective work and interaction with many talented people and other companies. The same applies to the development of improved safety assessment.

What do your future visions look like?
-My future vision is that we improve road safety together and that by 2030 we can evaluate the protection in the event of a crash for both women and men inclusively.


29th August 2023

Author: wheelsforwomen

Ireland's only website for women on wheels - cars, motorbikes, bikes. Video/ reviews, driving tips - written by women for women.

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