Toyota has expanded its family of virtual crash-test dummies by adding three new models to replicate the physical characteristics of children aged 10, six and three.
The software, known as Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS), maps and simulates the injuries sustained by human bodies in vehicle crashes.
Developed by Toyota and its academic research partners in the USA, the new software models will be offered for sale to others from later this year.
THUMS can forecast the extent of likely injuries throughout the human body, providing a valuable tool in the development of passenger protection devices, such as airbags, and the design of safer vehicles.
The new child models are designed to represent the average physiques of children at different ages: 94cm tall at three years, 118cm at six and 138cm at age 10.
As with the models already available - large and average-build males and a small female - they will each be offered in two versions: a passenger and a pedestrian.
The software has undergone constant improvements and refinements since THUMS Version 1 was launched in 2000.
For Version 2, which was released in 2003, faces and bone structure were added to the models.
Version 3, launched in 2008, added a brain simulation and in 2010, Version 4 was upgraded with detailed modelling of the brain and the addition of internal organs, pinpointing their placement and interaction within the body.
In 2015, Version 5 added simulated musculature, allowing the models to assume the same bracing positions that a human might just before an impact.
The new child models have been created through joint research between Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and the Collaborative Safety Research Centre at the Toyota Technical Center in Michigan.
THUMS is used for a wide variety of purposes by car makers, parts manufacturers, and universities, both in Japan and overseas.
It contributes to research on safety technologies not just at Toyota, but also by organisations all over the world. For example, in motorsport, it is being used for the development of safer seat designs for NASCAR racing cars in North America.
With the ultimate goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and injuries, Toyota will use THUMS to analyse the injuries sustained by passengers and pedestrians during collisions with and between vehicles, and to further research and improve safety technologies of all kinds.