LOUIS TIJERINA: FORD RESEARCHER APPLIES KNOWLEDGE OF PSYCHOLOGY TO DISTRACTION ISSUE
- Dr. Louis Tijerina, Ford senior technical specialist in Active Safety Research and Advanced Engineering, came to the company 10 years ago to conduct driver distraction research
- Tijerina’s education in experimental psychology and previous experience in federal research projects gives him unique insight into driver behavior
- When he isn’t collecting and analyzing research data, Tijerina enjoys playing pop tunes on the piano and competing in autocross races; he has earned a brown belt in San Soo, a combat style of martial arts
Driver distraction may seem like a relatively new concern in the automotive world given the increased use of mobile electronic devices by drivers, but Ford Motor Company has been studying the issue for more than 10 years. Its research began in earnest when Ford recruited Dr. Louis Tijerina in 1999 to study driver distraction and how humans respond and interact with driver warning and control intervention systems.
Tijerina, a senior technical specialist in Active Safety Research and Advanced Engineering, previously spent four years with the Transportation Research Center where he supported federal human factors projects being conducted at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Vehicle Research and Test Center in East Liberty, Ohio. He also spent 11 years at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, where he worked on human factors problems in transportation, defense and medical products.
“I’m deeply curious about all things human,” Tijerina said. “And I’m driven to present objective data on important issues that Ford Motor Company must address.”
Tijerina brings a unique understanding of cognitive psychology to Ford’s study of driver behavior. He has a master’s and doctorate in experimental psychology and a master’s in industrial and systems engineering from Ohio State University, which he attended as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow.
While the public debate on driver distraction is often fueled by discussion over who or what may be to blame, Tijerina maintains that empirical data culled from naturalistic driving research should drive public policy on the matter, and that technology and education are critical to reducing driver distraction.
“Driver distraction is a real concern, but research data show that the nature and magnitude of the problem is different than the extremes that public opinion suggests,” Tijerina said. “Technological solutions and driver education both can have a role in reducing driver distraction, but ultimately, the responsibility of driving safely is in the hands of drivers.”
As important as work is to Tijerina, even research scientists need to play now and then. For Tijerina, that means playing popular songs on piano and competing in league autocross racing, which he describes as “a great deal of fun.” He’s also earned a brown belt in San Soo, a combat form of martial arts. “San Soo is very intense and physically demanding,” Tijerina said, adding that he’s recovering from a knee injury sustained during a bout.
“It’s critically important to trust your training partner in San Soo to avoid unnecessary injuries. In a way, it’s kind of like trusting other people to share the road responsibly, because when people drive safely, no one gets hurt.”
Tijerina looks forward to celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with wife Gail in March. They have two kids, Anne, 18, and David, 16.
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 201,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
Oct. 5, 2009