When someone is injured on a tractor, or two cars crash in an intersection, insurance companies and law firms call Ralph Shirley to figure out what happened – and who’s at fault. In 2009, the engineer founded accident reconstruction firm Test Inc., an acronym for The Evidence Speaks Truth. And the Moorpark company has developed a line of business around airbags. While headlines and press releases talk about massive recalls by automakers for defective airbags, Shirley quietly unlocks the secrets inside the devices using their mini-computers, which record data in five-second increments. From these “tiny black boxes,” knowledgeable technicians like Shirley can discover what happened in the moments before the airbag was deployed, including vehicle and impact speed, whether the brake light switch was on, where the throttle position was and whether the seat belt was in use. “Airbag control modules tell a story about the accident. There are sensors in your car that say, ‘Oh I feel a bump,’ and at that point it (records) that data for five seconds,” said Shirley, 65. “But you have to read that information with situationally appropriate understanding.” For instance, if a vehicle is rammed from the side and gets pushed along the road, the airbag module is not going to pick up on its speed, Shirley explained. “It’s a piece of information that we use, but it’s not the only thing,” he said. Along with airbag module data, there are many puzzle pieces used to reconstruct accidents. Read the full story in the June 15 issue of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.