Tom Dingus, the Newport News Shipbuilding Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, will be honored with the U.S. Government Award for Safety Engineering Excellence at the 27th Enhanced Safety of Vehicles conference this spring in Yokohama, Japan.

This award, given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recognizes researchers who have made exceptional contributions to motor vehicle safety engineering and public service.

“It is a tremendous honor to have Tom Dingus' achievements acknowledged by this award,” said Jennifer Wayne, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. “He has made outstanding contributions to advance the field of vehicle safety research that are unparalleled.”  

Dingus’ transportation safety research has covered a broad spectrum of topics including automated and connected vehicles, driver distraction and attention, the safety and usability of advanced in-vehicle devices, crash avoidance countermeasures, and fatigue. He has been awarded more than $150 million in research funding and authored more than 300 publications.  

In collaboration with researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), where Dingus served as director for 25 years, he pioneered a research method known as the naturalistic driving study. Naturalistic driving studies use unobtrusive cameras and other sensors integrated into vehicles of willing participants to collect data over extended periods of time, often capturing detailed driver behavior and vehicle performance information for several months to years. The resulting data sets can help government agencies, auto manufacturers, and other transportation professionals develop strategies to make crashes less common or less severe.

“Tom’s impact on safety engineering is profound. His research directly improves the safety outcomes of vehicle technology and public policy,” said Zac Doerzaph, the executive director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. However, “with a career focused on mentoring students and professionals while enabling them with the resources of VTTI, his positive influence has proliferated across the transportation safety research and engineering domain.”  

Dingus led the development of novel testbeds for advanced vehicle research in Blacksburg as well as the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. This work connected public and private partners to collect data and design methods and technologies that have influenced the development of next-generation vehicles and infrastructure.

“Very few people have had the dramatic impact that Tom has had not only on vehicle safety, but also the Virginia Tech research infrastructure,” said Stefan Duma, the Harry Wyatt Professor of Engineering and director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, where Dingus is now a distinguished faculty fellow. “He built the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute from the beginning into a powerhouse research institute that brings together the largest group of driving safety researchers in the world.”  

Dingus has received numerous awards and honors, including the White House Champion of Change for Innovation in Transportation award in 2013.

He holds a B.S. from Wright State University and a master's degree and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.

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