Safe-D: Safety through Disruption

Fueled by the inevitable changes in our transportation system, the Safety through Disruption (Safe-D) University Transportation Center (UTC) endeavors to maximize the potential safety benefits of disruptive technologies through targeted research that addresses the most pressing transportation safety questions.


Upcoming Webinar: Modeling Driver Behavior during Automated Vehicle Platooning Failures

February 23, 2021 | 2:00 p.m. EST

The great promises of automated vehicles will only be realized if designers factor in human capabilities, which is challenging given the complexity of human behavior and its interactions with the surrounding driving environment. Driver process models offer a potential solution to this challenge because they can simulate realistic human responses to environmental conditions. These simulations can be used to calibrate design variables (e.g., following distance) to ensure a safety barrier. Despite the fact that driver models are frequently used to assess manual driving safety and advanced safety systems, there have been few attempts to extend these models to automated vehicle control transitions, particularly in platooning environments. The goal of this talk is to discuss a model development process to predict driver behavior following an unexpected prompt from the automated vehicle for a control transition. The discussion will introduce a model development approach that is grounded in contemporary cognitive theory, empirical findings, and actual on-road observations, and show that this process leads to accurate predictions of driver decisions, braking reactions, and steering behavior. The talk will close with a discussion of future directions and applications. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Adam Novotny wins UTC Student of the Year

Adam Novotny

Adam Novotny of VTTI has been honored as a UTC student of the year. Each year, the U.S. DOT honors outstanding students from participating UTCs for their achievements and promise of future contributions to the transportation field. Students of the Year are selected based on their accomplishments in such areas as technical merit and research, academic performance, professionalism, and leadership. Adam was first author on a soon-to-be published-paper titled “Concept Development of the Novel Pre Rear-End Positioning and Risk Extenuation System (PREPARES).” In 2019, his team won the international title with this project in the Collegiate Student Safety Technology Design Competition (SSTDC) of the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) 26th International Technical Conference. For more information on Adam and the other winners, follow the link.

Increasing safety for electric cars and pedestrians

Michael Roan works in the Acoustics, Signal Processing, and Immersive Reality Lab. Photo provided by Michael Roan.

An interdisciplinary research group at Virginia Tech is using an award of $550,000 to create a virtual environment to test safety measures for the interaction between electric vehicles (EVs) and pedestrians. The award is an 18-month project funded by the Safety through Disruption (Safe-D) University Transportation Center.


Fueled by the inevitable changes in our transportation system, the Safety through Disruption (Safe-D) University Transportation Center (UTC) endeavors to maximize the potential safety benefits of disruptive technologies through targeted research that addresses the most pressing transportation safety questions. With the outstanding leadership of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute in a mentoring collaboration with the new transportation research group at San Diego State University, a Hispanic-serving institute known for educating the transportation workforce, our geographically balanced consortium encompasses the largest collection of transportation safety researchers in the nation and provides unparalleled expertise, facilities, and resources to conduct impactful research towards our long-term vision. The Safe-D Center will focus its efforts in three key areas: (1) cutting-edge research by leading transportation safety experts and their students; (2) education and workforce development with programs for all levels from grade school through college to continuing education for professionals; and (3) fully supported technology transfer including practitioner training partnerships, social networking, commercialization, and intellectual property management.


The mission of Safe-D is to proactively promote safety through a data-driven collaboration among the nation’s brightest researchers.


The vision of Safe-D is a nation with a systemically safe transportation system.

Theme Areas

  • Connected Vehicles
  • Automated Vehicles
  • Transportation as a Service
  • Big Data Analytics


The Safe-D consortium was assembled by the Director, Dr. Zachary Doerzaph, with the expressed intent to make significant progress toward a nation with systemically safe travel through research, education and workforce development, and technology transfer efforts.

Partner with Us

To effectively usher in the next generation of transformative technologies in transportation, the Safe-D UTC believes that it is critical to partner with industry representatives, university faculty, and young students in all Center activities. Accordingly, the Safe-D UTC is seeking partners for targeted research and development activities, educational and workforce development programs, and technology transfer efforts aimed at commercialization and deployment.