November 2018

In 1999, Paul J. Santos, Jr. and his family created the Santos Family Foundation in memory of his wife Robin Olsen Santos, and their three children, Cristina Elizabeth, Paul Christopher, and Peter Robinson Santos, all four of whom died in an automobile collision in New Hampshire in 1990, in which Paul J. Santos, Jr. was the sole survivor.

The Foundation focuses on improving vehicular safety, including the crash-worthiness of automotive vehicles, many forms of crash prevention, and the reduction of injuries to vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Following are the principal projects funded by the

Grants to the MIT AgeLab to study Driver Attention and Distraction

The Foundation has made its largest commitment of resources to the MIT AgeLab (AgeLab). Most of the Foundation’s grants to the AgeLab were matched by the US Department of Transportation. The AgeLab’s research, which first received Foundation funding in 2009, focused on the safety implications of in-vehicle technologies, intelligent vehicle applications and the impact of health on driver behavior. The findings of this work were presented at a November 15, 2010 conference in Cambridge, MA.

The AgeLab then received Foundation support for empirical research on the impact of pacing on driver workload demand, and assessment of the cognitive demand associated with typical and “expert” in-vehicle voice-based interactions while driving.

Because these AgeLab studies highlight a range of driver distractions, the Foundation committed additional funds to determine, from existing data at MIT and at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, whether head position of an automobile driver is a good enough surrogate/estimator of whether the driver’s eyes are on the road and whether technology can be used to detect a driver’s extended look off the road. In short, this grant allowed the AgeLab to analyze the feasibility of a head-based distraction detection system.

The AgeLab’s research indicated that driver gaze may be detected with great accuracy in a range of situations using an in-vehicle camera. Accordingly, the Foundation committed additional funds for the AgeLab to develop a real-time prototype algorithm for driver gaze classification through an in-vehicle camera. As a result, the AgeLab has developed open source software that accurately, and in real time, detects a driver’s focus on and off the road, and is capable of alerting the driver to dangerous levels of distraction. The Foundation is hopeful that this work will lead to an accurate means of informing drivers of excessive off road glances. A YouTube video demonstrating this software at work may be found at:

This software is now being incorporated into aftermarket products that will allow drivers to add this technology to vehicles already in use.


The Foundation is hopeful that this technology also will be included in newly-manufactured vehicles.

Further information on the work of the AgeLab may be found at:



Grants to the Olin College of Engineering

Since 2014, the Foundations has funded a SCOPE (Senior Capstone Program in Engineering) program of senior/faculty teams at Olin College of Engineering (Olin) to provide traffic analysis of vehicles and pedestrians at an intersection based on video taken of that intersection. In 2017-18, the Foundation provided additional support for SCOPE work in measuring direct vision quality of drivers of large vehicles. Also in 2018-19, the Foundation is supporting SCOPE work in conjunction with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe) in Cambridge, MA to help the city of Washington, D.C. develop a tool to measure bicyclist stress level at urban intersections.

Further information on the SCOPE work funded by the Santos Family Foundation may be found at:


Grants to improve roof strength standards

After examining the efforts of numerous private and public organizations in the field of automobile safety, the Foundation’s first grant in 2001, one of its largest, funded a three-year effort by the National Crash Analysis Center of the George Washington University to devise an improved roof crush standard for the automobile industry in order to reduce both direct injuries from roof intrusion and injuries from ejection through side windows. Information on the objectives of this project may be found at:

Rollover Crash Research Proposal (118 KB)

In connection with this same objective, the Foundation funded joint effort by the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) and the Center for Injury Research, to determine the practicability of a dynamic test of roof strength. This research utilized the Jordan Rollover System (JRS) and determined that the Volvo XC90 provides rollover occupant protection through superior roof strength and other safety features. The Foundation provided additional grants to CAS: 1. to determine the repeatability of JRS; and 2. to compare the results of JRS testing with the results of static testing conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration


In April, 2009, NHTSA did issue a new roof strength standard. The standard took effect in 2012, and all passenger vehicles were required to meet the new standard by 2015.That standard is described at:


Recall Research

Jeep Grand Cherokee fuel tank fires: The Foundation funded a 2011 crash test of a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s fuel system by the Automotive Safety Research Institute. The results of the crash test were submitted to NHTSA for consideration in its safety defect investigation of the fuel system in 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees. As a result of this investigation, NHTSA did recall about 1.6 Jeeps in June, 2013.

Kia and Hyundai fires. In 2018, at the request of CAS’s Vehicle Safety Project, the Foundation made a grant of $25,000 to conduct an analysis of Kia and Hyundai models involved in repeated fire incidents. The Foundation anticipates that CAS will make the results of this analysis to NHTSA and the public.

Archives of auto safety information

In order to provide the public with easily accessible information on auto safety, the Foundation funded the creation of a website which provides current auto hazards information and a comprehensive collection of motor vehicle hazards documents by the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) of Boston, MA. Further information on this project may be found at:


For the same purpose, the Foundation granted the Automotive Safety Institute at George Washington University funds to create publicly-available library of landmark auto safety information accumulated by key NHSTA policymakers over the years.

Heavy Truck Braking

The Foundation has supported Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) in developing a new federal standard which will require that heavy trucks be equipped with an autonomous emergency braking system. Such a system automatically decelerates a large truck and mitigates or prevents collisions in the truck’s path in the absence of proper driver response. On October 16, 2015, NHTSA granted a petition for rulemaking to establish a safety standard to require automatic forward collision and mitigation systems on certain heavy vehicles.


Foundation Contact

The Foundation does not invite submissions from the public. Rather, the Foundation prefers to identify specific automobile safety issues and then work with experts who are able to address those issues.

For further information on the Foundation’s grant goals and funding, please contact:

Leonard E. Santos
Executive Director
Santos Family Foundation
4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd., #423
Portland, OR 97214.

E-mail lensant@gmail.com
Telephone (971) 202-3175
Fax (971) 255-0351

Principal Reports:

The following reports have been funded, at least in part, by the Foundation, and are made available here in PDF format.