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This research project will investigate how to reshape 20th-century transportation infrastructure (such as highways, intersections, roads, and sidewalks) for the 21st-century so that it may accommodate autonomous vehicles while addressing the needs of the entire community. To do so, it will explore trade-offs between three key elements: safety, usability, and aesthetics. It will then propose a suitable balance between these elements by developing a framework for reshaping the existing infrastructure. The resulting framework will serve to inform city planners, architects, and landscape architects how to plan and design cities in which autonomous vehicles safely interact with humans, and it will serve to educate roboticists on how to ensure that the technology they are developing has a positive societal impact.

This project will investigate the critical link between the urban landscape and navigation safety of mobile co-robots, from self-driving cars to delivery drones, or any mobile co-robot that operates on city streets and sidewalks. It will address fundamental questions of safety and trust in operating ubiquitous robots in dense urban environments by determining what changes to the urban infrastructure can simultaneously ensure safety, usability, and environmental sustainability. It will bring to light opportunities enabled by ubiquitous co-robots, and more to the point it will show how to leverage that technology to make changes in the transportation infrastructure that lead to positive changes for society.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.