According to a Silicon Graphics press release, their servers are delivering record new speeds on a standard 3 car crash simulation using LSTC software. The high performance computing available from several manufacturers makes such simulation more practicable, more realistic, and cheaper.
LSTCs LS-DYNA is “a general purpose transient dynamic finite element program capable of simulating complex real world problems.” As such it requires high computer speeds and power to run the three car simulation of “a van crashing into the rear of a compact car, which in turn crashes into a mid-size car directly in front of it”, which is standard in US automobile safety tests.
I dont know who actually is the fastest; but power and speeds are increasing due to the competition between high performance computer (HPC) manufacturers such as SGI, IBM, HP, and Cray, who sell a specific “LS-DYNA/Cray XD1 Bundle with pricing starting from US$68,000.”
LS-DYNA is also used to simulate collisions, structural failures, explosions and earthquakes. Times taken to run the 3 car crash test are between 104,000 seconds and 2462 seconds (er… between 28 hours and 41 minutes). Gives you some idea of the complexity of the maths involved.
What excites me is that better computers are introducing not just a qualitative increase in our abilities, but a quantum leap. In theory these simulations might have been possible ten or fifty years ago – but only in theory. Now you can do simulations for $68,000 that can increase safety, use resources more efficiently (if only because you dont have to crash so many real cars), and tell us more about the interaction behaviour of complex systems.