Striving to save lives on national roads

Striving to save lives on national roads

Striving to save lives on national roads

Norma Faris Hubele retired from Arizona State University in 2006 after more than two decades of teaching statistics and industrial engineering, including one year as interim chair of the industrial engineering program and two years as the first director of strategic initiatives in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools. Engineering.

Faris Hubele’s career began at ASU in 1984 when she became only the third woman hired to join a faculty of more than 100 engineering professors. Her top accomplishments included negotiating a work-family balance with reduced teaching, research, and service responsibilities as she rose through the ranks to become a full professor.

Faris Hubele embarked on a productive career in teaching and research by earning a BA in Mathematics, an MA in Operations Research and Statistics, and a PhD in Computer and Systems Engineering.

Years later, her resume highlighted the publication of more than 50 of her papers in research journals, in addition to many presentations at academic and industry conferences. These achievements helped open doors to membership in the American Statistical Association, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the National Safety Council, and the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine.

She also co-authored the popular textbook “Engineering Statistics” with Fulton Schools professors Douglas Montgomery and George Runger and co-edited “Statistical Process Control in Automated Manufacturing” with the now late ASU Professor Emeritus J. Bert Keats.

Upon retirement, Faris Hubele received the honorary title of professor emeritus in what is now the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Fulton Schools.

So, it was time to just rest on their laurels, right?

No, far from it.

Bringing big data to power consumer advocacy

Beyond her academic, research and family business accomplishments, Faris Hubele has since made her mark as the founder and CEO of, which provides “real-life auto safety reviews.”

In her second career as an auto safety consultant and consumer advocate, she has worked with more than 50 law firms across the country, served as an expert witness in more than 120 consumer legal proceedings and engaged in debate high level about car safety. standards and related issues.

The range and depth of her expertise is presented in her book Backseat Driver, subtitled The Role of Data in the Great Car Safety Debate, published in 2023 as part of the American Statistical Association and CRC Press series on Statistical Reasoning in Science and Society.

In addition, Faris Hubele created Auto Grades, which provides consumers with extensive data on auto safety systems and reports on how effectively—or ineffectively—those systems have protected drivers.

Based on automobile accident data, she developed a mathematical and statistically based system to rate the safety of more than 24,000 car models dating back to 2001 to help consumers decide which cars and trucks to buy.

Among its main goals is to influence the way the federal government conducts its automobile safety evaluation tests and motivate automakers to adopt stricter standards that will better protect the public.

Norma Faris Hubele examines an automobile used by researchers at the Battery Intelligent and Electric Vehicle Laboratory

In the simulation building on Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus, Norma Faris Hubele (left) examines an automobile used by researchers in the Battery Electric and Intelligent Vehicle Laboratory, led by Junfeng Zhao, assistant professor of engineering at the Polytechnic School, part of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at ASU. Both Hubele and Zhao are working on various efforts to improve automotive safety systems. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU

Supporting the cause of justice in court

Brent Ghelfi, owner of Phoenix-based Ghelfi Law Group, which specializes in auto defect and other product liability cases, says his firm has benefited for nearly a decade from Faris Hubele’s effectiveness as an expert witness.

Ghelfi highlights his contributions in reviewing dozens of cases on behalf of his clients. He notes the extensive statistical analyzes of government and industry databases he has conducted to identify trends and issues related to vehicle safety, particularly their ability to protect occupants from serious injury during crashes.

“Norma’s deep knowledge and understanding of these issues and her ability to quickly and efficiently assess areas of concern and identify what is happening or has happened in the automotive industry is second to none,” says Ghelfi.

“She has advanced the cause of vehicle safety as much or more than any other expert in the field. She does her work quickly, effectively and efficiently and is able to defend it scientifically.” he says. “Almost as important, she is easy and pleasant to work with.”

Attorney Lynn Shumway, whose Shumway Law Firm in Phoenix has been handling auto safety and defect litigation for more than 30 years, says Faris Hubele has few peers when it comes to knowledge of auto safety systems and technologies.

“I wish I could go back in time about 20 years so I could have used it sooner than I did. Even among other experts, she stands out for her talent,” says Shumway.

“All the effort she put into her writing, reporting and testimony is just fantastic, and she was always completely honest and completely fair,” adds Shumway. “I don’t think I’ve seen any experts for opponents in a court case who have found anything wrong with what she said in court.”

Shumway says he believes Faris Hubele’s work as an expert witness over the years, along with her book and newspaper columns, helped sway some automakers to offer better safety features in their vehicles.

Collaborate with ASU automotive researchers

Faris Hubele continues to lend his expertise to support research at ASU. She recently met with researchers from the BELIV, Electric Battery and Intelligent Vehicle Laboratory, led by Junfeng Zhao, assistant professor of engineering at the Polytechnic, part of the Fulton Schools.

Zhao, formerly in research and development for General Motors, now focuses on improving the testing and evaluation processes for automated vehicles. Its purpose is to provide a rigorous framework for ensuring the reliability and safety of self-driving cars by standardizing safety quantification methodology.

Zhao says he anticipates these efforts will contribute to the data needed to develop safety assessments for new vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems, automated or autonomous driving systems and similar emerging technologies.

Faris Hubele sees more changes and challenges to come in automation and automotive technologies, as well as in general modes of transportation.

“I think things will evolve quickly,” she says. “So we have to maintain some sanity to guide people through the maze of transportation evolution and safety,” she says.

For her, that development could mean more traffic to her website, more people contacting her for guidance on what cars to buy, more interviews on KJZZ (National Public Radio) news and Arizona PBS news programs ,, Automotive News and other major media outlets, as well as multiple readers for her columns in the local Ahwatukee Foothills News, Chandler Arizonan and other Times Media Group publications.

backseat driver book cover by Norma Faris Hubele

Norma Faris Hubele’s book “Back Seat Driver” focuses on the role of data in a broad cross-section of car safety controversies, including defects, vehicle size, fuel efficiency, test dummies and automation. Photo from CRC Press, a Chapman & Hall book

Challenging traditional automotive safety rating systems

Faris Hubele plans to continue writing as a car teacher for essentially the same reason he started—to better educate families about how to make sure they’re buying the safest automobiles.

She recalls a personal experience that motivated her mission.

“I saw my nephew huddled in the back of a small car that I knew wasn’t safe,” she says.

She knew this because of the Fatality Analysis Report System, a US government database of information on fatal car accidents.

With her in-depth knowledge of these tragedies on our nation’s roadways, she was aware that although the vehicle her grandson was riding in earned a top rating on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 5-Star Safety Rating System, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was safer than other cars.

“What most car buyers don’t understand is that comparing cars in different classes like some rating systems do is misleading,” says Faris Hubele. “A particular car may get a four-star or even a five-star rating under certain kinds of criteria in a lab, but in a real crash, that rating doesn’t mean you and your family are safe.”

It touts its Auto Grades system as the only consumer-oriented safety rating system based on real crash data rather than tests using crash dummies.

“I’m challenging traditional lab-based car safety assessment systems while giving people useful and life-saving information about their cars,” she says.

“In the courtroom, I educated judges on the importance of sound statistical reasoning. Today, from my living room, I help consumers,” she adds.

It looks like Faris Hubele won’t be retiring from his newest career anytime soon.

“My proudest achievement is rising through the academic ranks while balancing my family life,” says Faris Hubele. “Now, providing consumers with important car safety information is my passion.”