The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Toyota Settlement to Fund Auto Safety Research

February 14, 2014

Tara Ohrt, a research assistant at the University of Iowa Simulator for Interdisciplinary Research in Ergonomics and Neuroscience, drives through a testing scenario. Photo by Sarah D. Hacker.
Tara Ohrt, a research assistant at the University of Iowa Simulator for Interdisciplinary Research in Ergonomics and Neuroscience, drives through a testing scenario. Photo by Sarah D. Hacker.

The University of Iowa Public Policy Center (PPC) has won three grants totaling $17.2 million to fund automotive safety research and a new national campaign to help drivers understand vehicle safety systems.

The grant funding is part of the safety research and education program established by the recent Toyota class-action settlement in California. 

The projects resulting from the grant will include:

  • An engineering analysis conducted by NADS and the Department of Geography to determine whether multiple car sensor systems can be used together to prevent certain types of crashes.
  • A national survey on public perceptions of vehicle safety technologies.
  • A national educational campaign on vehicle safety technology, in which the UI has partnered with the National Safety Council and Iowa City-based Digital Artefacts LLC.
  • A study at the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) that examines replicating emergency events in a controlled and safe environment.
  • A study in the UI Department of Neurology to measure and improve younger and older driver behavior when accelerating and decelerating.

“The work we will do can significantly advance driver safety,” said Daniel V. McGehee, director of the PPC’s Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Program. “When large sums are invested into basic research, innovation follows. This is a win-win for both drivers and for science.”

McGehee also serves as adjunct professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, occupational and environmental health, and emergency medicine.

The UI Social Science Research Center will conduct the national survey on public perceptions of auto safety technologies. This survey will assess knowledge and familiarity with vehicle safety systems and will examine drivers’ understanding and use of defensive driving techniques.

The results of this survey will be developed into a national education campaign, designed to reach 90 percent of U.S. adults multiple times.

The UI has partnered with the National Safety Council to conduct the national multi-media and education campaign. It will be supported by scientific research and will enhance and promote safer driving among motorists.

“We look forward to working with the University of Iowa to educate drivers to better understand their vehicles and how to most effectively use vehicle safety systems,” said John Ulczycki, vice president of the National Safety Council.

Digital Artefacts, an Iowa City-based research and development firm specializing in multi-media, games, mobile applications, and software, will develop interactive computing as part of the education campaign. Digital Artefacts’ multidisciplinary team of scientists, artists and engineers has worked with the UI since 1999, creating interactive experiences for education and research communities.

“We are delighted to collaborate with the University of Iowa and the National Safety Council to design and develop engaging and effective educational media and content to advance driver safety,” says Joan Severson, president of Digital Artefacts.

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