Karen Balavich
Karen M. Balavich
Manager
Vehicle Engineering
  • Detroit

As an experienced automotive engineer, Ms. Balavich specializes in vehicle crashworthiness. She has expertise in designing, developing, and implementing occupant protection safety systems that align with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) requirements, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) guidelines, and recognized industry working group procedures. Ms. Balavich has provided consulting services to automobile manufacturers, automotive suppliers, and non-automotive clients such as the federal government, insurance companies, and law firms. She conducts research in her field and provides consulting on automotive testing, accident investigations, and litigation projects. She has been retained to apply her product development knowledge to other innovative applications outside the automotive industry.

Ms. Balavich has provided engineering expertise in product litigation matters involving crashworthiness claims including side structure, side impact airbags systems, rollover airbag systems, front occupant classification systems, airbag sensing systems as well as other safety technologies. She has addressed claims in the area of technology availability, designed function, and real world performance. Ms. Balavich has experience in defending intellectual property claims and is the named inventor on seven patents. 

Prior to joining Exponent, Ms. Balavich held the position of Technical Expert in Side Impact and Rollover Restraints at the Ford Motor Company where she was the technical leader in the design, development, and implementation of the safety technology for the industry’s first rollover curtain system, the Ford Safety Canopy. She also directed and implemented the industry’s first application of the rollover curtain in the 2002.5 Model Year Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer. In her position at Ford, Ms. Balavich researched and developed rollover curtain designs to align with NHTSA ejection mitigation proposal. Ms. Balavich also developed side airbag and roof rail curtain airbag designs to meet the IIHS side impact evaluation ratings and the new FMVSS 214 side impact standards. She has researched and applied side impact and rollover evaluation methods to alternative technologies such as inflatable tubular structures, glazing, and seat belt system performance. 

Prior to her position as Technical Expert, she held Design Engineering positions in Vehicle Restraints, Door Systems, and Corrosion Protection Engineering also with Ford. Ms. Balavich has working knowledge of the vehicle development process. During her tenure at Ford, Ms. Balavich also had experience in launching new technologies into vehicle production, assisting in designs for assembly, and supporting the vehicle assembly processes.

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • M.S., Finance, Walsh College, 1993
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Michigan Technological University, 1988

Publications

Newberry W, Imler S, Carhart M, Dibb A, Balavich K, Croteau J. Belted occupant kinematics and head excursion during the airborne phase of vehicle rollover: Evaluation of the effects of rollover-deployed curtain airbags. SAE Paper 2014-01-0527.

Balavich K, Soderborg N, Lange R, Pearce H. Deployment characteristics of seat mounted side impact airbags. 22nd International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV), Paper 11-0358, 2011.

Lange R, Soderborg N, Pearce H, Balavich K, Huang S. Side impact airbag efficacy, injury mitigation performance in vehicle models with and without side impact air bags and inflatable head protection. 22nd International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV), Paper 11-0115, 2011.

McCoy RW, Balavich KM. Analysis of a prototype electric retractor, a seat belt pre-tensioning device and dummy lateral motion prior to vehicle rollover. SAE Paper2005-01-0945, SAE 2005 World Congress.

Balavich KM, Nayef E. Dummy head kinematics in tripped rollover tests and a test method to evaluate the effect of curtain airbag deployment. SAE Paper2002-01-0690, SAE 2002 World Congress.

Presentations

Balavich K, Heller M. Exponent – Real world outcomes of rollover collisions involving rollover activated curtain airbags. 2011 SAE Government Industry Meeting, Washington DC, January 2011.

Balavich K, Leigh M. Ford Motor Company—Ford ejection mitigation. Presentation to NHTSA (NHTSA-2006-26467-0002), Washington DC, February 2007.

Balavich K, Clark T. Safety canopy system overview. SAE Rollover Forum, Dearborn, MI, February 2004.

Balavich K. Occupant impact energy level study for development of a component containment evaluation method. The Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers Meeting, Southfield, MI, July 2003.

Balavich K, Nayef E. Dummy head kinematics in tripped rollover tests and a test method to evaluate the effect of curtain airbag deployment. 2002 SAE World Congress, SAE Paper 02B-193, Detroit, MI, April 2002.

Balavich K. Side airbags as supplemental protection in rollover accidents. SAE Government Industry Meeting, Washington DC, May 2000.

Patents

US 7,686,332 B2: Integrated Side Impact Air Bag With Single Layer Sail Panels, March 30, 2010 (W.M. Abramczyk, E. Valdez, K.B. Balavich).

US 7,338,070: A Multi Chamber Airbag for a Motor Vehicle, March 04, 2008 (K. Balavich, J. Belwafa, C. Madasamy).

US 7,178,827: Occupant Ejection Prevention Assembly, February 20, 2007 (K. Balavich, C. Chou, J. Le, F. Wu).

US 20060131845 A1: A Multi Chamber Airbag for a Motor Vehicle, June 22, 2006 (K. Aekbote, K. Balavich, J. Belwafa).

JP2005225487: Occupant Release Prevention Assembly, August 25, 2005 (K. Balavich, C. Chou, J. Le, F. Wu).

US 20070108745: Side Impact Air Bag, May 17, 2005 (K. Balavich, J. Belwafa, B. Spahn, I. Reyes-Helfrich).

US 6,237,943 B1: Vehicle Rollover Curtain with Improved Deployment, May 29, 2001 (K. Balavich, J.R. Brown, J.A. Zychowicz).

Prior Experience

Technical Expert Side Impact and Rollover Restraints, Ford Motor Company, 2000–2007

Design Engineer Side Impact and Rollover Restraints, Ford Motor Company, 1998–1999

Vehicle Design Engineer, Escort/Tracer Door Systems, Ford Motor Company, 1994–1997

Design Engineer, Corrosion Protection Engineering, Ford Motor Company, 1990–1993

Ford College Graduate Program, Ford Motor Company, 1988–1989

Professional Affiliations

Society of Automotive Engineers (member)

Additional Information

Peer Reviewer

Society of Automotive Engineers technical publications

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • M.S., Finance, Walsh College, 1993
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Michigan Technological University, 1988