The Institute for Transportation and Traffic Engineering (ITTE) was established in 1947 by an act of the California Legislature. The University of California was asked to carry on instruction and research related to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of highways, airports, and related facilities for public transportation. The Institute maintained staff, offices and research facilities on the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses.
The impetus behind the legislative act was that, in 1947 there was recognized a need to define and pursue research and training supporting renewal and improvement of transportation facilities, undernourished during the Thirties and overworked during World War II. In the Fifties and Sixties, transportation problems broadened from those of providing and maintaining facilities to problems of planning, intermodal integration, and the management of traffic in different kinds of systems.
At UCLA, special attention was given to human factors in transportation; to the analysis of physio-engineering systems inherent in motor vehicle collisions; and to driving simulation. Facilities included equipment for physiological and psychological measurements of vehicle operation; off-campus sites for full-scale automotive collision studies and traffic studies; a state-of-the-art driving simulator and visual-acuity laboratory; and an automotive components evaluation and reliability facility.
The majority of the research projects were concerned with improving highway safety. The automobile and school bus impact and crash injury studies focused on safety belts, which were not in widespread use at the time. The media and local and statewide officials were often spectators at the more than 100 car and bus crash tests staged at an abandoned air strip at the U.S. Naval Station in Long Beach. This collision and lab research generated much of the scientific data that Detroit manufacturers needed to design safer cars.
For example, researchers at ITTE were the first to measure the potential hazards of brain concussions and lacerations when windshields or side windows are shattered. Scientists applied backgrounds in engineering and psychology to the study of driver behavior and characteristics, including highway hypnosis, and examination of the “wrong way” freeway driver. And the institute was one of the first to propose bicycle pathways alongside some roadways.