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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 14, 2006

UI Researcher: Proposed Vehicle Stability Rule Would Be Lifesaver

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal to make electronic stability control (ESC) standard equipment on all light passenger vehicles by the 2009 model year and all vehicles by the 2012 model year would be a lifesaver, according to a University of Iowa researcher.

The federal regulation proposed by NHTSA on Thursday, Sept. 14, is vitally needed, says Dr. Karim Abdel-Malek, director of the UI College of Engineering's Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD) that administers the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), where NHTSA is sponsoring extensive ESC testing and research.

"Electronic Stability Control holds tremendous potential for reducing the number of deaths associated with single-vehicle, loss-of-control accidents that occur each year," says Abdel-Malek. "The National Advanced Driving Simulator has been a critical tool for investigating the impacts of this technology. Without the NADS, it would be nearly impossible to fully understand how this technology would interact with the types of driver response to dangerous situations that typically cause loss of control."

NADS, a research and teaching unit of the college, is nearing completion of the second of two NHTSA-sponsored studies examining the impact of ESC under various driving situations. The first study examined the potential benefits of ESC on wet pavement and was completed in the summer of 2005. The second study, examining potential ESC benefits on dry pavement, is nearly complete and will be finished prior to the close of the 60-day comment period on the proposed rule.

ESC research at NADS has focused on human response to situations typically associated with loss of control and how typical drivers over a range of ages (16-74) may benefit from this technology. NADS has coordinated the human subjects research effort to provide NHTSA with the data necessary to form the proposed rule on ESC. The two NADS studies, involving more than 500 volunteer licensed drivers, have been critical to understanding the tremendous safety benefits associated with the ESC system, says Abdel-Malek.

ESC is an active safety system that helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles on the roadway. The system detects when a driver is about to lose control of a vehicle and automatically intervenes by adjusting the brakes to provide stability and help the driver stay on course. By aiding drivers in controlling their vehicles, the ESC system has the potential to reduce the number of single-vehicle crashes that currently account for 57 percent of all fatal crashes. 

Located at the UI’s Oakdale Research Park, NADS is the most sophisticated research-driving simulator in the world. Developed for NHTSA, it offers the highest fidelity real-time driving simulation experience. The NADS mission is to conduct and support simulator-based research and motor vehicle systems research with the goal of enhancing the safety of U.S. highways and improving the safety and productivity of the vehicle-manufacturing sector. The NADS vision is to achieve these goals in collaboration with academia, government, and industry through the advancement of multi-disciplinary simulation science and technology.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Research, Senior Team Leader for Simulation Technology Omar Ahmad, 319-335-4788,, or Team Leader for Cognitive Systems Engineering Timothy Brown, Ph.D., 319-335-4785,; Media, Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,