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Enhancing passenger safety through path planning and control of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles

Materials and Engineering Research Institute

About the Project

Research Area:

Traffic-related fatalities are the eighth leading cause of death worldwide, ahead of HIV/AIDS, and the first leading cause of death for children and young adults between 5 and 29 years old. Autonomous vehicles are seen as a potential solution, as they are expected to radically change passenger transportation and dramatically reduce fatalities - currently, 90% of the accidents are due to human error. Despite great efforts on vehicle automation and electrification so far, the current technology level is not enough for a rapid large scale adoption of electric autonomous vehicles, i.e., several issues are still open and to be addressed by the research community. For instance, in 2016 the software of a car featuring the "Tesla Autopilot" software (automation level 3 on a 0-to-5 internationally recognised scale of automation level) did not notice the white side of a van against a brightly lit sky, and the car crashed into the van with fatal consequences for the driver. Automated driving could be implemented with relatively simple controllers if, ideally, the current location of the controlled vehicle and the current and future locations of the other road users are known without uncertainty. But this is not going to happen in the near future, which will see a combination of automated/semiautomated driving and human driving. The demonstration of the reliability, safety and robustness of automated driving technology in all conceivable situations, i.e., in all possible traffic situations and under all potential road and weather conditions, is a key challenge since it is the main hindrance for homologation, certification, end-user acceptance, and ultimately commercialisation.
This project focuses on the development of trajectory control/path planning techniques for autonomous/semiautonomous vehicles, along with the design of advanced vehicle dynamics controllers aimed at enhancing passenger safety. The ultimate goal is to create a semiautonomous/autonomous car that is far more "talented" than an average driver, able to perform controlled accident-avoiding maneuvers which would be impossible, or extremely difficult, to be performed by an average driver. That would definitely support the further development and diffusion of autonomous vehicles, hence the reduction of fatal road accidents worldwide - currently killing around 1.2 million people each year, which is unacceptable.

The Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) is a dynamic interdisciplinary research institute dedicated to addressing industrial problems through the application of fundamental science and engineering. For information about MERI please visit:

Application deadline: applicants accepted all year round with enrolments during September, February (January on website) and May

Duration: 4 years full time, 7 years part time.

Funding Status: there is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses.

Funding Notes

Funding Status: there is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses.

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