The Revolution is Here

Grainger Engineering hires nine new faculty in autonomy and robotics, as the Center for Autonomy drives the safe, assured systems that will revolutionize the way we live, work, and play.

Spring 2021

Professors João Ramos and Kris Hauser are both members of The Grainger College of Engineering’s Center for Autonomy, making them part of a deeply integrated team of researchers from a variety of backgrounds and specialties. Launched in 2019, the Center for Autonomy explores human-robot interactions like those Ramos and Hauser are working on in their SATYRR project. But, with more than 80 faculty members from across the college participating, it’s much more expansive than that.

The center’s teams run autonomy projects in agriculture, transportation, defense, health care, and manufacturing – anywhere innovative systems that work without human intervention may be able to improve safety, reduce costs, increase productivity, or take on otherwise impossible or dangerous tasks.

“Autonomous systems require almost all of our science, very diverse dimensions of engineering that don’t always talk to each other. We’re targeting everyone here. Rather than having a jack of all trades doing these things, we have teams of people who are specialists who appreciate and understand the disciplines that come together,” said Professor Geir Dullerud, the center’s director and a W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science & Engineering.

By drawing together specialists and applications-focused experts, the center brings in the “absolute best people.”

“If you’re driving, you want the computer vision system on your car to be the best possible, and you want the best vision people on your campus working on it,” Dullerud said. “We have best-of-class domain experts. In vision, we’re great. In the controls area, we’re ranked number one by international indices. In radar, communications, all these areas, we have specialists who were not necessarily connected to the field of autonomy but are doing phenomenal work. That’s the design of the center.”

Since the center started, Grainger Engineering has hired nine new faculty members in autonomy and robotics, including Computer Science Department Head Nancy Amato and Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering Department Head Jeff Shamma.

This growth and coordination provides expanded support for researchers, and it helps the team train people, coordinate the curriculum, and pursue large-scale funding opportunities.

“In autonomy and robotics, the revolution is here. The hardware development of the last 10 to 20 years in sensing, computing, design make possible the automated operation of things that used to require human operators. The Center for Autonomy is about building the science and infrastructure for us to do research in this area and educate students at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral level,” Dullerud said.