“How many fingers am I holding up?”

Even before a forceful collision, crash test dummies may give you a blank stare when you ask them how their day is going, but don’t let them fool you. Testing equipment plays an important role in building automotive products.

Verification is an essential to product development for any market, whether testing for aerospace and defense, the medical industry, or the automotive field. So, when an automotive client needed a custom-designed piece of test equipment for recording data during a crash test, the engineers at DornerWorks were eager to help.

Our Solution

The Crash Data Recorder developed by DornerWorks is stored in the trunk of an automobile, and records high-speed signals from multiple sensors throughout the vehicle during a crash event. Afterwards, that data is downloaded into a LabView application for analysis.

DornerWorks handled the full development for the Crash Data Recorder, including systems, electrical, mechanical, FPGA custom logic, firmware, and LabView software, as well as production of the crash recorder test equipment on an aggressive schedule.

The event triggered crash recorder relies on a TI Stellaris (ARM Cortex M3) chip and Altera Cyclone III FPGA technology, providing:

  • Automotive circuit protection
  • Power-hold capability with 9,000 J storage
  • Resilience to up to 30G mechanical shock on three axes
  • USB 2.0 port for data downloads

The data acquisition system operates on 16 channels EIA-485 at 8MHz and 4 channels of 10-bit A/D, with buffering from dual SRAMs, and 5 independent SPI FLASH devices handling storage.

The Crash Data Recorder DornerWorks developed helped this automotive client collect and test crash data that can help improve safety features across product lines. Along with crash data, the client was also able to use the virtual instrument to acquire and synthesize systems and manufacturing information.

DornerWorks produced more than 100 of these devices and provided follow-up training, maintenance, and service support for the automotive client, helping them understand more about using it to develop their own solutions.

In a field as fast-moving as the automotive industry, project managers need engineering partners they can rely on to deliver thorough, tested, and effective results on time, trusting that those solutions will still be relevant even months down the line. Working with a partner that doesn’t respect that timeline, or multiple partners that can’t cross-communicate effectively, could mean difference between making a difference in the market and finding themselves colliding with failure.


  • Flexible hardware and FPGA design allows add-on data acquisition capability
  • Automotive power input
  • 9000 joule energy storage capacity for power hold capability
  • Lightweight, impact resistant enclosure, survives 30-g mechanical shock in 3 orthogonal axes
  • Advance procurement of long-lead-time components
  • Data download capability via LabVIEW-based application