In this Issue:

Factory Diagnostic Tools for Computers on Wheels

Using Stuntmen in Accident Reconstruction - Seeing is Believing

From Bob Swint's Vault

Industry Spotlight - Products Liability


Automotive and commercial trucking technology has changed dramatically in recent years. The electronics in today's vehicles are evolving at a mind-boggling pace with ever greater sophistication and with an ever increasing volume of data monitored and/or collected by on-board systems. Most recently, on-board computers have gone beyond merely monitoring and storing data in a passive way. They now also make decisions and actively adjust vehicle performance to enhance the capabilities of vehicle operators. As these trends accelerate, it is not an exaggeration to say that our vehicles have become computers on wheels.

Throughout the vehicle, numerous computers monitor the states of switches and data output from various sensors and other components. These data course through the vehicle’s nervous system by way of controller area network (CAN) buses. External data interfaces such as the OBD (On Board Diagnostics)and OBD-II ports are commonly used in automobiles to provide entry to and data access from some of these on-board networks. In commercial trucks, vehicle performance data are not only collected and stored internally but also may be transmitted in real time to the parent company so management can assess vehicle efficiency and driver behavior.

Examples of computer controlled vehicle technologies include:

  • Airbags
  • Cruise Control
  • Stability Control
  • Anti-Collision
  • Proximity Sensors
  • Lane Control

  • Anti-lock Brakes
  • Brake Assist
  • Traction Control
  • Night Vision
  • Security Systems
  • GPS Navigation Data

Data stored within the vehicle can be a valuable source of data relevant to accident investigation. Currently, the most common hardware/software tool to access data from automobile airbag systems is the Crash Data Retrieval(CDR)system.

Commercial vehicles generally have engine control modules (ECM) that monitor and manage engine and vehicle operations. The ECMs can also store data that, in addition to supporting maintenance and fleet operations, can be useful in accident reconstruction.

CDR and ECM capabilities can vary greatly between vehicles. Substantial expertise is required to access and interpret the data. The growing complexity of the data and the processes for retrieving and interpreting the data is a thorny issue that will only become more difficult as the scope of vehicle electronic systems widens.

Utilizing specialized hardware and software developed by the vehicle manufacturers themselves can sometimes provide better access to vehicle data than third-party CDR and ECM downloading tools. As part of our continuing effort to be the vanguard of vehicle accident reconstruction, ATA Associates is in the process of obtaining a variety of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) diagnostic scan tools to enable the best possible evaluation of accident-related vehicle data.



The kinematics of the human body are complex, and our reflexive movements can sometimes be surprising. These realities present challenges to the accurate analysis and modeling of bodily motion in the reconstruction of certain types of accidents. For that reason, for over 25 years, ATA Associates has utilized the services of professional stunt men and stunt women in the reconstruction of certain accidents. Observing and documenting an accident reenactment with one or more live subjects involved is often the best way, and sometimes the only way, that a complex accident can truly be understood. The use of professional stunt people allows accident sequences to be demonstrated in a safe and responsible manner, and the resulting visualization may be the key not only for the jury to understand but also for the technical reconstructionist to really understand the complex interaction of humans and objects in an accident.

Stunt people are a unique breed of professionals. Typically, they combine an outstanding level of athletic skill and conditioning with years of training and experience in the more technical aspects of their craft. They thoroughly plan and choreograph the various aspects of a stunt before attempting it, but even then they may ultimately rely on their training, quick wits and reflexes to adapt to and respond safely to unexpected situations.

Founded in 1986, The Houston Stuntmen’s Association (HSA) is a resource that boasts a highly skilled group of professional stunt players with extensive experience in a variety of venues.

ATA reconstructions utilizing stunt professionals have included:

  • Product Malfunctions
  • Slips and Falls
  • Vehicle Occupant Dynamics
  • Auto/Truck Collisions

  • Pleasure Boat Accidents
  • ATV Mishaps
  • Vehicle Pedestrian Accidents
  • Night Lighting Hazards

Visit ATA's website for more information on the HSA and examples of their activities and ATA’s use of stunt people in our accident reconstruction work.



This issue’s vault will take you on a video tour that we assembled displaying various case summary posters that our graphics department has put together over the years.

Typically, when a case closes, we construct a poster showing examples of our work that went into the resolution of a case. These posters often contain demonstrative graphics, site drawings, video frame grabs, 3-D animation stills, charts and photos. This “poster video” has become a popular feature at conferences and trade shows; so enjoy this sample, with more to come in future issues.

Case Poster Video - Volume 1


ATA will be participating in the upcoming DRI Products Liability Conference in Las Vegas, February 7-10. This conference will focus on products liability, an area that ATA has been doing work in for over forty years. We have performed advanced testing and provided litigation support on a wide range of products from vehicular systems, to boating vessels, to children’s products, to recreational vehicles and equipment, to firearms and more.

To review ATA’s history with products liability cases, check out: ATA Products Liability Highlights Video

or visit our website.