Inaugural Center for Autonomy Distinguished Lecture a ‘smashing success’

4/1/2019

Allie Arp, CSL

Although the Center for Autonomy was officially announced in December, it is already having an impact on staff and students at the University of Illinois. In late February the center brought in two speakers from Uber to discuss their vision and activity on autonomous vehicles.

“Uber is a big player in this area and we thought we could learn a lot,” send the center Director and CSL Professor Geir Dullerud. “We wanted to show them what we are doing at Illinois and begin to develop a relationship.”

Uber Advanced Technologies Group Autonomy Capabilities Lead Alex Ansari led a morning presentation based on planning for self-driving vehicles. He discussed the process Uber goes through when deciding on a planning strategy for choosing the algorithms that go into their autonomous systems and the challenges they face. The presentation also included real-world examples and what the future of autonomous algorithms will need to include.

The second presentation was the first Center for Autonomy Distinguished Lecture in what looks to be a promising series.

“The goal of the Center’s distinguished lecture series is to bring in prominent speakers in the area of autonomy and robotics, both to expose our students and faculty to what is going on as well as to acquaint the speakers with what is happening in the Center,” said Dullerud, professor in mechanical science and engineering, and affiliate professor in electrical and computer engineering, and computer science.

Brandon Basso, Uber’s director of autonomy presented “What’s Hard in Self-driving” to a standing-room-only crowd that had to turn away additional attendees at the door. The talk, discussing what challenges must be overcome before self-driving cars are truly viable, was well received.

Brandon Basso addresses the crowd during the inaugural Center for Autonomy Distinguished Lecture Series.
Brandon Basso addresses the crowd during the inaugural Center for Autonomy Distinguished Lecture Series.

“I’ve never seen people turned away at the door of NCSA Auditorium before, we broke some fire codes,” laughs Dullerud “Both lectures were extremely well received. I consider it a smashing success!”

The lecture series will continue on April 11 featuring Aaron Ames from Caltech presenting "Safety-Critical Control of Dynamic Robotic Systems.” All are welcome to attend.

Fall lectures continuing the pattern of academic research mixed with prominent industry researchers are also in the works. The Center for Autonomy is cosponsored by the Coordinated Science Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University’s College of Engineering.