U.Va. Engineer Jeff Crandall Receives Auto Safety Award

July 31, 2012 — SAE International recently bestowed upon University of Virginia engineering professor Jeff R. Crandall its 2012 Arnold W. Siegel International Transportation Safety Award for his contributions to research on improving vehicle safety to prevent driving accidents.

The Nancy and Neal Wade Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Crandall directs U.Va.'s Center for Applied Biomechanics.

The Siegel Award annually recognizes individuals who display outstanding international research, innovation and contributions to crash injury protection, crash injury biomechanics and crash injury design. Additionally, recipients exhibit leadership in activities that made a significant impact on transportation safety.

Crandall was nominated based in part on his successful efforts to move the Center for Applied Biomechanics into a new, state-of-the-art research facility. The 25,000-square-foot space – the world's largest university-based injury biomechanics lab – opened in 2010.

"It's where crash survival becomes science," said a recent article in the Engineering School magazine Unbound.

"Jeff deserves the lion's share of the credit," colleague Richard Kent said, "for recognizing the potential of an expanded Center for Applied Biomechanics; for identifying potential locations and eventually selecting the final site; for assembling a coalition of administrators and other actors who could make it happen; for creating brilliant financial, administrative and logistical plans of attack; and for overseeing the construction of and move to this world-class facility."

The award also recognized Crandall for his research in rollover crashes, an area of research that is relatively new due to the technical challenges of studying this sort of crash. He secured funding to purchase two sled systems for the center. One of those systems is a full-scale rollover sled capable of spinning and dropping a full-size utility vehicle – the first university-based system of its kind in the world. The center recently demonstrated the sled's capabilities during a Department of Transportation conference for a group of about 100 distinguished international visitors.

"Those visitors were treated to a full-scale test of a sport utility vehicle rolling at 400 degrees per second and dropping onto a moving roadbed – a test that represented the solution of technical challenges beyond any experimental program I am aware of our field attempting before," Kent said. "This equipment literally revolutionized the way our field approaches the study of these devastating crashes."

The award consists of a framed medal and a $7,500 honorarium, as well as an invitation to attend the SAE – formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers – World Congress. Crandall accepted the award this spring at a meeting in Detroit.

Crandall has been a member of SAE International since 1989, has chaired its Pedestrian Dummy Task Group since 2003 and has received many other awards from the organization. He has worked at U.Va. since 1992 and earned his Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from U.Va. in 1994.

"Despite the daily challenges of directing 50-plus engineers, physicians, technicians and students, Jeff has been able to maintain the sense of excitement of a young researcher unafraid to explore novel solutions to longstanding problems," said Greg Shaw, a senior scientist at the Center for Applied Biomechanics. "This excitement is contagious and ultimately is reflected in the numerous successes" attributed to the center.

— by Rebekah Bremer