February 2021

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 automobiles, many forms of crash prevention, and the reduction of injuries to vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Following are the principal projects funded by the Foundation:

Grants to the MIT AgeLab to study Driver Attention

The Foundation has made its largest commitment of resources to the MIT AgeLab (AgeLab). Many 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 highlighted 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 off 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 driver attention management 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. The resulting open source software 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.

Read this report on Real-Time Driver Impairment Monitoring.

In an effort to expand and deepen the pool of expertise and experts focused on the safety issues associated with automated driving features, the Foundation has funded a fellowship at MIT to support outstanding scientists for a year’s study. The first of these Santos Foundation Fellows studied the effect of autonomous features on drivers and published the results of that analysis, which received substantial media and scientific attention

Read this CNN reporting on a lack of attention by drivers of autonomous vehicles.

Read the conference report.

A second Foundation fellow is expected to begin work in March, 2021.

Further information on the relevant work may be found at AgeLab

Grants to the Olin College of Engineering

Since 2014, the Foundations has funded an annual SCOPE (Senior Capstone Program in Engineering) team at Olin College of Engineering (Olin). The Foundation’s SCOPE teams (4-6 senior engineering students with a faculty advisor) spend a year working to develop solutions to a specific problem related to vehicular safety. The initial SCOPE project provided traffic analysis of vehicles and pedestrians at an intersection based on video taken of that intersection. In 2017-18, the Foundation provided support for SCOPE work in measuring direct vision quality of drivers of large vehicles.In 2019-2020, SCOPE undertook work to modernize and make more comprehensive crash data reporting. The SCOPE effort to improve crash data reporting is being conducted in parallel with work supported by the Foundation at the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS), which is discussed below. Read about past SCOPE projects supported by the Foundation.

Read the 2021 Final Scope Report.

Grants to the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

SCOPE work to develop an app which will measure the quality of direct vision for drivers of large trucks and buses is now part of a separate Foundation grant to the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe) in Cambridge, MA with the objective of creating industry and fleet purchase standards for direct driver vision from large vehicle cabs.

Foundation-funded work at the Volpe Center is described in some detail in the UMass 2019 Summit Report.

This work is also discussed in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s fourth quarter 2020 magazine.

Grant to the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety

The Foundation has provided support to the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS) to improve its eCrash electronic reporting software in use in Alabama and other states. This crash reporting software enables police on the scene of an accident to electronically document and transmit in real time a wide range of information about an accident. The Foundation is hopeful that the work at CAPS and at Olin to improve crash reporting will serve as a prototype for other states and lead to the enrichment of crash databases the analysis of which can facilitate crash reduction.

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.

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 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 (NHTSA).

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 in this NHTSA Roof Crush Final Rule.

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 million Jeeps in June, 2013.

KIA and Hyundai fires. In 2018, at the request of CAS’s Vehicle Safety Project, the Foundation funded an analysis of KIA and Hyundai models involved in repeated fire incidents. Although NHTSA did not issue a formal recall of the vehicle models involved in these fires, KIA and Hyundai did voluntarily recall many, but not all, of the models at issue.

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 is available at www.mvhap.org

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 petition for rule-making to establish a safety standard to require automatic forward collision and mitigation systems on certain heavy vehicles.

Read the Federal Standards on Automatic Emergency Braking

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. You may also send an email to [email protected].

The following reports, funded, at least in part, by the Foundation, are available for viewing online using Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, which may be downloaded from the Adobe Web site free of charge.

Principal Reports: