Peter J. Leiss, P.E., C.F.E.I., C.V.F.I. Automotive Engineer & Crash Expert

Peter J. Leiss, Automotive Engineer & Crash Expert

PJ is an expert in vehicle engineering and crash reconstruction. He commonly investigates and testifies in matters pertaining to vehicle crashworthiness, vehicle performance/handling dynamics, and crash reconstruction.

PJ Leiss, P.E., C.F.E.I., C.V.F.I., Automotive Engineer & Crash Expert, Robson Forensic

As a vehicle engineer with Dodge, PJ was involved in the entire lifecycle of vehicle design and manufacture. He designed and engineered systems for concept vehicles, tuned and validated systems on prototype vehicles, resolved manufacturing issues during production, and made improvements to enhance vehicle quality and safety after the start of manufacture.

Outside of the office, PJ is active in restoring classic cars and building/maintaining vehicles for personal and motorsports use. He has been “restomodifying” an older vehicle with modern suspension, brakes, interior, and powertrain. He has also participated in track days and helped to build and campaign a race car in the National Auto Sport Association, American Iron Series.

PJ is a licensed Professional Engineer and member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and ASME. He has been qualified as an expert in vehicle engineering, crashworthiness, vehicle repair, and accident reconstruction, in State and Federal courts.

Provide technical investigations, crashworthiness and engineering, and accident reconstruction analysis.

Motor Vehicle Design, Development and Testing – from requirements, concept through validation field-testing of complete vehicles, including manufacturing. Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) for products & process, DVP&R development, as well as writing trouble shooting and service procedures. Testing pre-production and production vehicles in extreme environments at or above rated capabilities. Owner’s Manual and Quick Start Guide language development, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) and other regulatory requirement compliance.

Motor Vehicle System Design, Development and Testing – conventional and anti-lock brakes; electronic stability control; restraints; powertrain; throttle-by-wire; seat; gear shift; suspension; steering; tires, fuel intake, storage, and delivery; emissions controls; electrical; climate control; frames; and structures.

Motor Vehicle Failures – seat belt; seat retention, air bag; structural; suspension; axle, spindle failure and separation; wheel and bearing failure; transmission failure; sudden acceleration; cruise control; steering; frame rail; wheel separation; steering; ABS; electronic stability control; transmission; fuel injection and electronic engine controls; car, light truck and medium truck brakes; trailer hitches; throttle by wire; electronic throttle control, post-impact fuel-fed fires.

Motor Vehicle Repair – diagnosis and repair of engine, transmission, transfer case, differential and final drive, suspension and steering systems, conventional and anti-lock brake systems, stability/traction control, fuel system, emissions systems, climate control, entertainment, video, navigation, network, multiplexing, primary and supplemental restraint systems, lighting/ electrical, interior/exterior components and systems, interaction of dealers and manufacturers, and Safety Recall repairs. Proper use of service repair tools and equipment, repair procedures and shop operations.

Manufacturing Process and Equipment – pneumatic and DC powered tools, hand tools, torque verification means and methods, Statistical Process Control (SPC), stamping, welding (TIG/MIG), tube bending, roll forming, Mistake and Error proofing, poka-yoke, Kaizen activities, operator protection means and methods, operator ergonomics, operator lift assists, fluid filling stations.

Vehicle Accident Reconstruction – inspection of damaged vehicle and components. Site inspection. Review of police report, witness statements, scene photos and other documents. Computational recreation of the accident using facts and scientifically accepted methodology to determine how the accident occurred, including elements within the accident. All to determine cause(s) of the accident, including the resulting severity.

Professional Experience

Robson Forensic, Inc.


2007 to present

Provide technical investigations, analysis, reports, and testimony toward the resolution of commercial and personal injury litigation involving vehicle collisions, vehicle crashworthiness and engineering issues, mechanical defects and malfunctions, and vehicle repair issues for passenger cars, light trucks, SUVs and medium trucks.

Crashworthiness LLC


2011 to 2013

Provide technical investigations, analysis, reports, and testimony toward the resolution of commercial and personal injury litigation involving vehicle collisions, vehicle crashworthiness and engineering issues, mechanical defects and malfunctions, and vehicle repair issues for passenger cars, light trucks, SUVs and medium trucks.

Chrysler, LLC

1999 to 2007
Plant Vehicle Engineer 2006-2007
Newark, DE

Deployed to the Newark Assembly Plant to determine root cause of production issues and implement corrective measures with chassis, powertrain, and interior parts and/or assembly processes and machines. Audited process and machine capability. Performed daily drive audits on new vehicles to confirm fit/form/function expectations. Liaison between the assembly plant and engineering in Detroit. Perform trials on new parts. Determined cause of warranty claims; pursue corrective actions. Assisted in prototype vehicle builds and diagnose and document build and functional issues.

Vehicle Development Engineer, Detroit, MI 2002-2006
Truck Vehicle Development and Synthesis Group. Responsible for current and future model year Dodge Durango Chrysler Aspen Interior/Chassis. Developed and performed vehicle tests to validate new hardware. Acquired suspension load data and performed suspension integrity testing to ensure design met functional objectives. Planned and executed development/validation trips for new product in severe climates and usage environments.

Trailer towing at maximum weight over Eisenhower Pass, Colorado and in Baker and Death Valley, California. Acted as the “Voice of the Customer” during the development process. Diagnosed and documented build and functional issues throughout the development process. Reviewed and corrected draft Owner’s Manuals for new models and features. Performed root-cause analysis on vehicle system and durability issues and provided feedback to design groups. Prepared vehicles for display at Auto Shows and for dynamic review by Senior Management and Journalists.

Part of team assigned to implement Electronic Stability Program (ESP) to current model Dodge Durango as a mid-life-cycle product enhancement. Activities included:

  • Benchmarking competitive vehicles to establish system performance targets
  • Participated in development rides at internal, external, and supplier testing facilities to gauge progress on tuning in various environments
  • Guided tuning with feedback from the development rides and Senior Management reviews
  • Updated structural durability vehicles with latest hardware/software

Led project to modify a current product for use in a high speed pursuit environment. Worked with design groups to support prototype properties being built and tested. Modified the vehicle’s handling and braking characteristics to meet targeted functional objectives. Scheduled internal testing at off-site facilities and external testing with potential customers for feedback and acceptance levels.

Involved in the development and tuning of:

  • Impact Energy Management
  • FMVSS Compliance
  • Occupant Safety Systems
  • Thermal Protection
  • Brake Pedal Feel
  • Anti-Lock Brake System tuning
  • Electronic Stability Program tuning
  • Suspension dampening
  • Stabilizer bar design and application
  • Tire analysis, performance, and selection
  • Interior component design, fit, and finish
  • Fuel gauge accuracy
  • Trip computer readings
  • Seat comfort
  • Anti-Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) measures

Product Engineer, Detroit, MI 2001-2002
Truck Chassis Design Engineering. Responsible for Dodge Durango Exhaust System design and engineering, including tonal quality tuning, thermal management, and emissions control devices. Addressed quality and reliability issues in current production parts. Designed and released future model parts, supported prototype vehicle builds, and planned and executed trips to test functionality in extreme climates. Managed cost reduction activity for all truck product exhaust system components.

Product Engineer, Detroit, MI 1999-2001
Truck Chassis Design Engineering. Responsible for Dodge Ram Diesel Fuel System design and engineering including fuel tank design, filler tube, fuel supply and return lines, thermal management, and impact energy management. Ensured fuel system met FMVSS 301, Fuel System Integrity, to prevent post-impact fuel-fed fires. Addressed quality and reliability issues in current production parts. Designed and released future model parts, supported prototype builds, and planned and executed trips to test functionality in extreme climates. Managed cost reduction activity for current model parts.

General Motors Corporation, Pontiac, MI

Test Support Engineer


Truck Simulated Durability Test Group. Responsible for proving structural durability of new program vehicles with testing conducted on computer controlled, hydraulic actuated test equipment. Tracked test progress and failed hardware on vehicles undergoing simulated structural durability testing. Worked with design engineers to develop solutions to repetitive failures.

Professional Credentials

  • Professional Engineer: NCEES, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia
  • Greenbelt Certification, 2007
  • Shainin Red X Apprentice, 2007
  • Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI)
  • Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI)
  • Certified Inspection Mechanic, Class 1 (passenger car / light truck): Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, expired (2008-2023)


B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI, 1999

Continuing Education

  • Three-Day Course of Instruction on the IDRR Software, Driver Research Institute, November 2022
  • Fire Investigation Training, NAFI, 2020
  • Traffic Crash Reconstruction – 3, Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, 2016
  • Vehicle Fire, Arson, & Explosion Investigation Science & Technology Seminar NAFI, 2015
  • Advanced Fire & Explosion Investigation, NAFI, July 2015
  • Traffic Crash Reconstruction - 2, Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, 2015
  • Vehicle Dynamics for Passenger Cars and Light Duty Trucks, SAE 2013
  • Engine Failure Investigation and Analysis, SAE 2013
  • Side Impact Occupant Safety and CAE, SAE 2012
  • Applied Vehicle Dynamics, SAE 2011
  • Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Fire Investigation, SAE 2009
  • Vehicle Accident Reconstruction, SAE, 2008
  • Process FMEA, DaimlerChrysler, 2007
  • Design FMEA for Systems and Components, DaimlerChrysler, 2007
  • Process Capability, DaimlerChrysler, 2007
  • Critical Thinking for Leaders, Business Processes Inc., 2006
  • Problem Solving for Manufacturing, Shainin, LLC, 2006
  • Statistical Process Control Application & Management, DaimlerChrysler, 2006
  • Design FMEA, DaimlerChrysler, 2006
  • Error/Mistake Proofing Techniques, DaimlerChrysler, 2006
  • Hybrid Vehicle Electrical Awareness, DaimlerChrysler, 2005
  • Brake Actuation, DaimlerChrysler, 2004
  • Vehicle Synthesis Awareness, DaimlerChrysler, 2003
  • Reliability Engineering in Product Design and Development, DaimlerChrysler, 2003
  • Suspension Geometry and Design, DaimlerChrysler, 2001

Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
    • Fire Safety Committee Member, 2016-Current
  • EvolutionMSport NASA American Iron Mustang, road race crew
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • National Association of Fire Investigators, International


  • Vehicle Fuel Tank for Improved Crashworthiness, U.S. Patent #11247828, published February 15, 2022
  • Vehicle Fuel Tank for Improved Crashworthiness, U.S. Patent #10343833, published July 9, 2019
  • Vehicle Fuel Tank for Improved Crashworthiness, U.S. Patent #10000328, published June 19, 2018
  • Vehicle Fuel Tank System for Improved Crashworthiness, U.S. Patent #9809113, published November 7, 2017

Invited Speaker/presentations

  • Forensic Crash Course Part 2 - National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration - Office of Defects Investigation, December 2021
  • ADAS and the Autonomous Vehicle - National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration - Office of Defects Investigation, May 2021
  • Forensic Crash Course Part 1 - National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration - Office of Defects Investigation, April 2021
  • The Nuts & Bolts of Autonomous Vehicles and Crash Avoidance Technologies, PBI May 2017
  • J.R. Williams, C.A. O'Donel, P.J. Leiss. “Influence of Design Characteristics of RearFacing Child Restraint Systems on Occupant Kinematics of 6-Month-Old ATD During Rear-End Collisions,” International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – in press, 2017


  • Peter J. Leiss, Marcus A. Mazza, Erin M. Shipp, “Heavy Truck Fuel Storage System Design for Improved Impact Protection,” ASME IMECE2019-11854, 2019
  • P.J. Leiss, S. Becker, G. Derian, “Tire Friction Comparison of Three Tire Types in Warm and Near Freezing Temperatures,” Collision, 12(1):24-40, 2017.
  • J.R. Williams, C.A. O'Donel, P.J. Leiss. “Effects of LATCH versus Available Seatbelt Installation of Rear Facing Child Restraint Systems on Head Injury Criteria for 6 Month Old Infants in Rear End Collisions,” Traffic Injury Prevention, 16(S2):17-24, 2015.
  • Leiss, P., Becker, S., and Derian, G., "Tire Friction Comparison of Three Tire Types," SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-0783, 2013, doi:10.4271/2013-01-0783.

v. 03/17/23

Related Resources

See All of Peter's Published Content

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Electronic Stability Control

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The Functional Components of Autonomous Vehicles

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In this article, the automotive engineers at Robson Forensic provide an overview of the individual components and sensors that make advanced driver systems and autonomous vehicles possible. In related…

Understanding Forensic Technology used in Vehicle Crash Cases

Thursday, April 01, 2021
2:00 - 3:00 pm
Featuring Marcus A. Mazza & Peter J. Leiss
Video Webinar

This webinar video reviews the capabilities and limitations of key forensic technologies used to document and analyze crash sites and vehicle damage in motor vehicle cases. Experts from our Crash…

Vehicle Fires – Origin & Cause 101

Thursday, December 10, 2020
2:00 - 3:00 pm
Featuring Timothy M. Wilhelm & Peter J. Leiss
Video Webinar

This webinar video walks attendees through the basics of vehicle fire investigations, from the foundational principles of determining the area of Origin, to the vehicle-specific systems associated…

Tire Forensics

Thursday, July 16, 2020
2:00 - 2:30 pm
Featuring Richard Sherman & Peter J. Leiss
Video Webinar

Blown or punctured tires are common in the aftermath of many vehicle crashes. In these instances, our experts are sometimes retained to determine if tire damage contributed to the cause of the crash,…