"The first time we used Thor, we broke him," said Horton. The crash
dummy cost $250,000, “but we had to add about $50,000 more in
modifications to [allow] him to ‘survive’ our high-G crashes."
black box data to accurately model the crash dummy’s movements during a
crash, engineers were able to design a safer cockpit that all Indycar
designs must use in hopes of reducing crash injuries. "We have almost
completely eliminated injuries from rear crashes," claimed Horton. "But
the cars are rear-heavy, so they often flip around” resulting in other
types of collisions.
NASA engineers, meanwhile, will face similar
problems when ocean splashdowns resume on manned spaceflights.
Spacecraft designers could use software analytics to study IndyCar black
box data, enabling the space agency to design smart materials to absorb
splashdown forces above established limits.
"We have already
studied Nascar's data, but they don't have accelerometers in their
drivers’ ears, just on the body of the car," said NASA engineer Jeff
Somers. "With IndyCar's data we can also correlate the G-forces on the
drivers’ head with injuries. That enables us to set standards for how
much our astronauts can be expected to take."
Three ADI high-G accelerometers measure the force of collisions. The MEMS earpiece also includes and audio speaker (Photo credit: Walt Kuhn, LAT Photo)
drivers must generally survive much more violent crashes, NASA hopes its
analysis of IndyCar's database, which has recorded every crash since
2003, will help it design smarter materials to protect returning
IndyCars currently use three inches of single-density
foam to protect drivers from rear-end collisions, but designers cannot
provide that kind of protection from every angle. NASA's multi-density
foams, however, could solve IndyCar's problem with different types of
collisions. "By going to these newer multi-density foams being designed
by NASA," said Horton, “we are hoping to get above this barrier
and hopefully completely eliminate injuries from on-impact compression."
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