Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

UMTRI collaborates with Toyota on new safety research center

The U-M Transportation Research Institute is one of three charter partners of a new advanced safety research center that will help reduce the number of traffic fatalities and injuries on America's roads.

The Collaborative Safety Research Center will be based at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor and will involve Toyota researchers and engineers from North America and Japan, as well as UMTRI researchers and those from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. Toyota will commit $50 million over the next five years to fund the center.

Research at the new center will focus on integrated ways to enhance safety, involving the vehicle, driver and traffic environment. Initial areas of emphasis will include reducing the risk of driver distraction — a growing cause of accidents — and helping to protect the most vulnerable traffic populations, including children, teens and seniors, and conducting in-depth analyses of available accident and human behavior data to support efforts to evaluate and speed deployment of active safety systems.

UMTRI will be involved on a multidisciplinary project to assess the potential benefits of advanced safety systems in a systematic way, combining researchers' expertise in driver behavior, crash data analysis and driver modeling.

"U-M is prominent in automotive safety research and injury prevention across UMTRI, the Medical School, the School of Public Health and the College of Engineering, and this Toyota initiative will bring new energy to our joint efforts," says UMTRI Director Peter Sweatman. "UMTRI will work closely with Toyota to coordinate opportunities for all of these university programs to collaborate in the new safety research center."

Chuck Gulash, a senior executive engineer at the Toyota Technical Center, will serve as director of the Collaborative Safety Research Center.

"We have a long history of working closely with North American partners to achieve our safety objectives, and our new collaborative research initiative will build on this tradition," Gulash says. "We intend to publish as much of the research as possible so that it is available to federal agencies, the industry and academia."

In addition to UMTRI's advanced safety systems research, other projects at the Collaborative Safety Research Center include research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute on the effectiveness of an electronic coaching and monitoring system for newly licensed teenage drivers to help reduce unsafe driving behaviors, and a pilot study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute to create America's first publicly available national crash surveillance system focused on child vehicle occupants.