Developed during the 1990s by Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) and Toyota Central R&D Labs before launching THUMS Version One in the year 2000, the concept incorporates a "virtual" crash test dummy that replicates as close to a human as possible through sophisticated computer modeling. These dummies contain bone structure, muscles, and many internal organs to truly understand what happens to our bodies in the event of a crash. Even lower extremities are captured, such as the fingers and toes.
And the best part is that it’s now offered for free to anyone who wants to use it, as part of Toyota’s initiative toward safe mobility for all.
A virtual reality model for better understanding vehicle crashes and their impact on the human body
Compared to traditional crash test dummies, which have typically been made of steel and rubber with simple sensors, THUMS dummies also register simulation data to monitor the impact with each crash. In THUMS, each simulated crash test offers damage to critical body parts, including the ligaments and skin packaged with high-resolution scans of real people. Simulations can replicate an accident in real-time, with a frame-by-frame overview of a body's reaction to a crash, complete with twisting limbs and flailing necks that properly abide by the laws of physics.
Crash test simulations can even replicate a driver aware of an impending crash, demonstrating "bracing" behaviors that affect their positioning before hitting impact. Even the slightest reaction or change in posture can affect restraint system (e.g., airbags and seat belt) performance. This simulation was integral in expanding some of the Toyota Safety Sense package's more popular features, such as its pre-collision systems.
Not a one-size-fits-all
THUMS dummies are not one-size-fits-all. In 2011, THUMs worked to introduce more virtual crash test dummies to the fray, coming in six different sizes and physiques representing men, women, children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Each model has a different body shape and organ/muscle composition changes, which all respond differently to crashes of varying severity. Past studies have also focused on the safety of wearing seatbelts and their effect on fetuses and pregnant women.
THUMS can also predict how a crash will turn out based on whether a person's body position is relaxed or braced.
Getting smarter with each generation
THUMS remains integral to developing some of Toyota's key safety technologies today, including side airbag technology, whiplash injury lessening seats, and other in-vehicle, energy-absorbing structures. Since its 2000 debut, THUMS has gone through four iterations, each more powerful than its predecessor in body, internal organ, and crash simulation detail.
Today THUMS represents more than 20 years of research keeping customers safe in their favorite Toyotas. The technology is now used by more than 100 vehicle manufacturers (including Renault, Daimler, Audi, and Volvo), schools, automotive parts suppliers, research centers, development sites, and even NASA, incorporated as part of the Orion spacecraft's design process.
The Toyota Safety Sense package continues to be a leader in the space, drawing from THUMS insights to create one of the most sophisticated safety packages on the road. In the future, Toyota hopes to incorporate the latest THUMS advancements towards automated vehicles with different configurations than traditional vehicles.