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From the Race Track to the Road: Designing Automated Vehicles to Avoid Collisions

Event Details

Sun, March 10, 2019
03:00PM - 05:00PM
Women's City Club
160 N. Oakland Ave., Pasadena CA 91101
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Registration Period:
$20 (includes light hors d'oeuvres and nonalcoholic beverages)
Kristina Tenner

Join us to hear from Chris Gerdes, Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His laboratory studies how cars move, how humans drive cars and how to safely design future vehicles. This talk will focus on the challenges of designing automated vehicles to maximize their potential for avoiding collisions.

Automated vehicles provide an unparalleled opportunity to reduce the approximately 35,000 fatalities that occur each year on US roads.  With the ability to sense 360 degrees around the vehicle, avoid distraction and react within milliseconds, automated vehicles possess some inherent advantages over human drivers when it comes to avoiding collisions.  To realize this potential, however, the cars must be explicitly designed to make full use of these advantages when designing and executing maneuvers. 

For inspiration, Professor Gerdes' team has been studying race car drivers, who are able to routinely handle cars safely at the very limits of their handling capabilities.  By working with expert drivers and measuring their performance on the track, we have developed automated vehicles capable of lapping a track in less time than a champion amateur driver and drifting through courses with a precision exceeding human capability.  More importantly, these projects have helped us to reframe our entire approach towards developing safer vehicles.  

Even with driving capability at the level of the best human drivers, not all collisions are avoidable, due to laws of physics and the unpredictable actions of human road users. This requires engineers to consider not only technical feasibility but also ethical frameworks for decision-making.  The talk concludes with a look at why these ethical questions are much different than the popular “Trolley Car Problem” that is often discussed and how we are giving students at Stanford the tools necessary to meet these challenges. 

Prior to the talk, please join us for a reception with light hors d'oeuvres and nonalcoholic beverages. There will be a cash bar.

Space is limited, so please register early.

Business casual attire.

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