Dr Sargolzaei receives NSF CAREER Award for research into safety and security of ‘self-driving cars’

Dr. Sargolzaei has received a five-year, $500,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the NSF for his ongoing research in the safety of technology used in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), also known as self-driving cars. The project, titled “Systematic Approach for Extensively (SAfEly) Testing and Verifying the Security of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles,” will directly impact the future of the technology and ultimately eliminate crash-related fatalities and save lives.


The potential benefits of connected autonomous vehicles (CAV) are numerous, and society is expecting that this technology will increase the quality of everyday life and follow through on its promises. However, to be effective, they must be tested to demonstrate a standard level of safety and security. The complex and interconnected nature of the transportation system makes the task of testing and verification exceedingly difficult, raising serious concerns regarding their safety and security. It, thus, calls for new problem formulation and a novel systematic approach for the task of CAV testing and verification. The existing testing solutions use ad-hoc methods, such as miles driven, to demonstrate some indication of safety, often assuming that the CAV’s perception of the surrounding environment is comprehensive and ideal. However, no fundamental structure has been developed to demonstrate the security of CAV products. This CAREER proposal models the transportation system as a networked control system providing a novel resiliency metric enabling the testing resiliency of CAVs. In addition, it utilizes the prior developed verification framework to formulate the testing and verification process as a centralized feedback control system enabling the development of a novel attack generator. The expected outcomes of this project would pave the way towards safely testing CAVs, directly impacting the future of this technology and related standards, ultimately eliminating crash-related fatalities and saving lives. The research findings can be further implemented for all networked control systems, such as high-assurance military systems and autonomous systems ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to power systems. The educational purpose of the project is to expand students’, particularly underrepresented and women minorities, awareness of CAV security by designing fully integrated educational modules and demonstrations. We plan to include the following activities to serve the need for rural and largely economically distressed regions: (i) develop after school online STEM curriculum adjusted for primary, High-school, and college students; (ii) provide workshops for educators and industrial partners as their professional development activities; (iii) involve underrepresented undergraduate and college students through research for undergraduate experience and internship program; (iv) develop an undergraduate and an advanced graduate courses.


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