Found this article on WIRED where they talk about how the Chevy Trax was put through computer simulated crashes to make it safer.
The general idea is that real life crash simulations are very costly and time-consuming. Doing these crash simulations on a computer is cheaper and faster.
GM can crash up to 100 versions of a model during its design in order to test and refine the design.
The technology has really progressed. Apparently 5 years ago simulations could handle 2 million elements, but now that number has increased to 7 million. Simulations can now account for every piece of plastic and metal in the car, as well as every bone in the human body.“The technology continues to get more advanced, and capabilities continue to expand,” says Ken Bonello, senior manager of safety computer-aided engineering at GM. “We’re able to simulate a crash test with more accuracy,” and, because of advances in computer processing, do it much faster.
Real world simulations aren't going anywhere though. They are needed to show customers what will happen in the event of a crash and will also be used to learn more about new materials and how they behave so that computer simulations can be updated accordingly.