For years, crash researchers have been carrying out collisions in this way to increase vehicle safety or to reconstruct accidents.
Today there’s a dummy type that’s better at depicting the internal injuries a human being might suffer in a crash.
It's been more than 20 years since Berlin-based accident researcher Dr Michael Weyde realised that conventional dummies were inadequate for realistic forensic tests.
"In car accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists, conventional dummies were too rigid and too immovable," he says.
Instead of bones, the cars' bumpers broke. Only the damage to windshields and roofs corresponded to reality.
Weyde initially optimised the standard dummies and then in 2010 went on to develop his own Biofidelic crash test dummy, which closely resembles the human physique and more realistically depicts injuries.
Instead of using pin-fork joints taken from mechanical engineering, the Biofidelic dummies have hinged joints like actual humans.
To represent bones, Weyde initially used different types of wood such as spruce or oak.
Together with university students from HTW Dresden and TU Berlin, Weyde developed the dummy further, finding substances and materials that match the tensile, compressive and flexural strength of bone material and casting them in moulds shaped like human bones.
Then came the third generation of the dummy. That has silicone that replicates soft tissue, muscles, and fat and which deforms as the human equivalents would. The dummy also has a new type of skin made of a latex compound.
Weyde found a company to produce the dummies and they’re now sold worldwide. The more human-like dummies allow crash tests that more realistically show the injuries a person being might suffer in a collision.
The dummy has standard measurements: 1.78 metres tall and weighing 78kg. This corresponds exactly to the European 50 percentile man — half of European adult males are over this percentile and half under it.
There isn't a version of the dummy to represent women, children or very tall or overweight men, but this could change in the next few years, Weyde believes.
The Biofidelic dummies aren’t only used to test the safety of road cars. The Ballistic Testing Office in Ulm, Germany uses them to investigate how resistant armoured vehicles are to shelling or explosive charges.
"Based on the damage detected on the dummy, such as to clothing and skin or broken limbs, conclusions can be drawn about the penetration of splinters or other components into the interior of the vehicle," says researcher Peter Haeussler.
If no damage is visible on the dummy, the tested vehicle can receive a rating of up to three stars. That means a powerful impact shouldn't injure the people inside the vehicle.