At Toyota Motor’s safety technology media tour on Thursday, the most photogenic objects were not the cars; they were the crash-test dummies. Throughout the day at the Higashifuji Technical Center at the foot of Mount Fuji, Toyota showed us its latest safety features and research facilities, including a head-on collision between a Vitz hatchback and Toyota’s flagship Crown sedan, and a driving simulator that would make NASA proud.
Among the high-tech safety gadgets were the 21 crash-test dummies, lined up neatly in a row, with names like Bio RID II, SID-IIS and THOR. The dummies come in all sizes and shapes to simulate the impact on drivers and passengers from 6-month-old babies to pregnant women. (She comes with a mock uterus with built-in sensors.)
Even though the dummies don’t particularly look impressive, with plastic limbs and wires hanging loose, they cost more than Toyota’s highest-end car model, averaging around 12 million yen ($150,000 U.S. dollars). The dearest of them, called “Hybrid III AM50 High-Meka Dummy” has a price to match its hefty name: 200 million yen ($2.5 million), an official explained. It’s all part of Toyota’s aim to reduce road-related deaths and serious injuries. Back in the 80s, they used to use live pigs for safety tests, strapping the swines into cars with seatbelts, the official said, sotto voce. Today’s pigs have stricter animal rights laws – and the crash-test dummies – to thank.