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The Road to Autonomous Cars



Chuck Pelly will be moderating "The Road to Autonomous Cars" with honored speakers at MIT Enterprise Forum on April 8, 2015.  


Cars that drive safely and reliably without human supervision are no longer science fiction. Nissan has teamed with NASA and aims to introduce autonomous driving technology to consumers between 2016 and 2020. Last week, Delphi Automotive decked out Audi SUVs with driverless technology for a 3,500 mile Coast-to-Coast road trip. Tesla S cars will have almost autonomous features with a new software upgrade this summer.  Cadillac will have “Super Cruise” hands-free driving on its 2017 CTS models.  And Mercedes Benz just unveiled the F015, their concept for a luxury autonomous vehicle.

Indeed, all cars are becoming smarter—they’re equipped with sensors for navigation and environment perception, wireless networking devices to communicate with other vehicles and roadside infrastructure, and computers for running sophisticated real-time planning and control algorithms.

What does the future hold for autonomous vehicle technology? Are we ready to give up the driving experience?  What safety regulations will be needed? What will these cars look like?  Join us as a seasoned panel debates how we will all be part of the driverless car future.

Dr. Maarten Sierhuis, Director of Nissan Research Center in Silicon Valley


Dr. Sierhuis leads a team of researchers at Nissan’s Research Center in Silicon Valley, tasked with developing autonomous vehicles (AVs), connected vehicles (CVs) and Human-Machine Interaction and Interfaces (HMI2). As a former NASA research scientist, he spent the bulk of his career creating autonomous technology for space exploration. Now he brings his expertise down to earth to help shape the future of motoring and how people will interact with intelligent cars capable of driving themselves.

He is responsible for developing the Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for Nissan’s AVs. The role also entails researching the technology required to create connected vehicles, and to allow people to interact with AVs. His greatest achievement so far has been that the AV software platform his team in Silicon Valley has developed has now been adopted by Nissan researchers in Japan who are also working on its AV.

Maarten’s ultimate goal is to make driving safer and more efficient, and he envisages a world in which autonomous, connected vehicles can provide transport without any fatalities whatsoever.Maarten predicts that cars will become what he calls “social team members” – meaning that they will understand their surroundings and the needs of their owners to improve their lives, like an extension of a person’s social network.



Slaven Sljivar, VP Hardware and Analytics, SMARTDRIVE


Slaven has spent all 20 years of his professional career in the automotive and telematics industry, in various strategic and technology roles.  Currently, he leads the Analytics team at SmartDrive Systems, a video telematics leader focused on improving safety of commercial drivers.  In his current role, Slaven works closely with product-generated data, which includes over 100 million 20+ second exception videos that were reviewed by expert analysts for risky situations and a continuous stream of sensor data (including the output from active safety systems) that is being analyzed in real-time by algorithms running on tens of thousands of telematics devices.  He designs and validates advanced analytical algorithms that focus on risk identification, from real-time embedded algorithms to predictive models that correlate drivers’ measured risk to actual collisions.

Prior to joining SmartDrive, Slaven lead several early analytics initiatives at General Motors focused on GM’s core business of profitably selling vehicles.  His most significant achievement was the design of a profitability analysis system that to this date allows financial analysts to analyze profit and its components at an unprecedented level of detail and guide better production, inventory, pricing and incentive decisions.  Slaven also worked as an internal business consultant at GM, consulting to various functions and business units, including OnStar.

Slaven holds an MBA degree from MIT Sloan School of Management and duel BS degrees in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute).


Dr. Don Norman, Emeritus and Director, UCSD DesignLab


Dr. Norman has lived many lives including being a professor of Design, Cognitive Science, Psychology and Computer Science at Harvard, Northwestern, and UCSD; plus appointments in Korea and China.  He was a VP at Apple, an executive of HP and has owned several star-ups. Dr. Norman was awarded the Benjamin Franklin medal in Computer and Cognitive Science and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Business Week named him one of “the world’s most influential designers.”  He is a best-selling author of 20 books translated in over 21 languages.  His most popular book, Design of Everyday Things, originally published in 1988 and recently revised and expanded in 2013.

Present day, you’ll find Dr. Norman back at UCSD directing the creation of the Design Lab.



Dr. Edwin Hutchins, Emeritus and Director, UCSD Distributed Cognition and Human Computer Interaction Laboratory


Dr. Hutchins has spent his entire academic career trying to understand human cognition in social, cultural and material context. He was originally trained as a cognitive anthropologist and believes that cultural practices are a key component of human cognition. He is considered the father of modern cognitive ethnography. His early work involved studies of logic in legal discourse among people of the Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea. In 1985, he was a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant”.

In 1995, Hutchins published Cognition in the Wild, a detailed study of distributed cognitive processes in a navy ship. Other areas of his work include the study of airline cockpits, the development of cognitive ethnographic methods and tools, and human-computer interaction.



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