Article ID: CBB000953634

From Road to Lab to Math: The Co-evolution of Technological, Regulatory, and Organizational Innovations for Automotive Crash Testing (2010)


Today, in the midst of economic crisis, senior executives at US automakers and influential industry analysts frequently reflect on the progression that safety testing has taken from the crude trials done on the road, to controlled laboratory experiments, and to today's complex math-based simulation models. They use stories of this seemingly linear and natural sequence to justify further investment in simulation technologies. The analysis presented in this paper shows that change in the structures of automakers' organizations co-evolved with regulations specifying who was at fault in vehicle impacts, how vehicles should be built to withstand the force of an impact, and how testing should be done to assure that vehicles met those requirements. Changes in the regulatory environment were bolstered by new theories about crash test dynamics and changing technologies with which to test those theories. Thus, as new technological and regulatory innovations co-evolved with innovations in organizational structuring, ideas about how to best conduct crash tests shifted and catalyzed new cycles of technological, regulatory, and organizational innovation. However, this co-evolutionary story tells us that the move from road to lab to math was not natural or linear as today's managerial rhetoric would have us believe. Rather, the logic of math-based simulation was the result of technological, regulatory and organizational changes that created an industry-wide ideology that supported the move toward math while making it appear natural within the shifting structure of the industry.

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Authors & Contributors
Scamehorn, H. Lee
Abney, Gene
Slotten, Hugh Richard
Packer, Jeremy
Yu, Junbo
Stough, Roger R.
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
Comparative Technology Transfer and Society
History and Technology
Business and Economic History On-Line
Science, Technology and Human Values
Technology and Culture
Southern Illinois University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Duke University Press
Transaction Publishers
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Legislative and administrative regulations
Technology and government
Automobile safety
Technology and law
Ely, Richard Theodore
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
21st century
19th century
20th century, early
Progressive Era (1890s-1920s)
United States
Illinois (U.S.)
California (U.S.)
United States. Food and Drug Administration
National Science Foundation (U.S.)
United States. Environmental Protection Agency

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