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Greg Fitch

Alumni Leader Spotlight

Greg Fitch

Head of Safety Research: Android Auto, Google

My career in human factors originated during my undergrad in industrial engineering at the University of Toronto. I connected with the idea of building systems to fit people, rather than making people adapt to fit the system. A profound moment occurred while I was interning at a human factors consulting company. The city of Toronto revamped all their street signs based on a sign legibility study we performed. It was then that I realized the impact the human factors profession could have.

I then moved to Blacksburg where I obtained a masters and Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering (specializing in human factors) at Virginia Tech. During my graduate studies, I joined the Virginia Tech faculty to research driver interaction with technology at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). I worked there after graduating where our research helped the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration generate guidelines to help mitigate the distraction potential of in-vehicle interfaces.

I went to work for Apple on automotive related technology. I helped guide the development of Apple products to be acceptably safe on public roads. I later joined Google to lead auto safety research. We are currently building several products that will fundamentally improve the transportation experience. My work is focused on setting auto safety principles and processes based on a portfolio of research that I learned from my time at VTTI.

It’s hard to find the right words, but I would describe myself as someone who values time spent with family, friends, and at work. Life is serious, but also seriously fragile. I’ve found a career that truly inspires me, but it’s easy to get consumed by the work. To find balance, I often take road trips with my wife and kids. We live in the Bay Area, so it’s super easy to pack up our ski gear, surfboard, or camping gear and head to the coast or mountains for the weekend. The experience isn’t lost on me when we end up visiting both locations in the same weekend.

How Virginia Tech equipped me for the 'real world'...
Virginia Tech taught me how to make an impact through practical research that solves a real-world problem. Research funding is limited, so it’s super important that it’s used wisely.

Best part of being a Virginia Tech alum...
Coming back to Blacksburg and reconnecting with friends.

Best advice I've gotten....
Make the most of your family vacations. You get 17 summer vacations with your kids, and that's a really small number when you think about it.

A key habit, practice, or skill, that's important for success in my industry...
Be observant, concise in communication, and look for ways to make those around you successful. Also, put your best into your presentations, reports, and other written work. These are records that people remember and can last forever.

Fondest Virginia Tech memory or tradition...
1) Watching the Hokies play in Cassell Coliseum, 2) VTTI holiday parties and summer picnics, and 3) Playing pickup basketball in War Memorial during the summer with colleagues from VTTI and Torc.

Words of encouragement to a current Virginia Tech student...
“The work is to dance between the fun and seriousness of the material” - Rick Rubin

A cause I'm most passionate about...
Mitigating driver distraction. It's a highly complex problem that's affected by who's driving, what they're doing, what they're driving, and where they're driving. The topic has been fascinating to study. I’m inspired to work at a company positioned to really help drivers.

The most formative experience I've had...
I’d say it was watching hours and hours of naturalistic driving study data when I worked at VTTI. We’d annotate videos of people doing all kinds of things while driving, getting into crashes, and avoiding crashes. It definitely heightened my awareness of what can go wrong on the road.

Media Contact:
Lindsey Haugh (540) 231-6959