Research, Technology & Innovation
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Putting Autonomous Vehicles to the Test
Entrepreneur RAHUL RAZDAN
Company RAZDAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE
The prospect of self-driving cars and trucks generates lots of buzz, but how exactly will we know they’re competent at driving other than by hoping for the best from their manufacturers? Do sensors actually see correctly? Do they see as well in rain or snow? Upon seeing, does the vehicle’s brain make the right choices?
These questions are on the mind of Rahul Razdan, senior director of special projects for Florida Polytechnic University. Razdan is a polymath. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Carnegie Mellon, a doctorate from Harvard and his name on 24 patents. After years in businesses large and small, he moved from Massachusetts to Florida. “Like a lot of people who moved down to Florida, I said, ‘OK, what am I going to do now?’ ” he says. One thing he did was join and become CEO of WiPower, a wireless energy transfer company spun out of the University of Florida, that was sold to Qualcomm in 2010.
In Ocala, he has his Razdan Research Institute. It builds on a TEDTalk he once gave on the shortcomings in our education system when it comes to preparing students to choose a career. His private NextGenEdu, through a product called Scholarly, markets a solution that helps students choose careers and fields of study.
Meanwhile, he’s an authority on autonomous vehicle validation. He writes on the subject for Forbes online. One column used T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to examine the mindset of designers of driver-assist systems and the lack of metrics to judge the systems.
Which leads back to Florida Polytechnic. There, he heads its Advanced Mobility Institute, which aims to stake out a position as a tester and validator of autonomous vehicle technology. From its work, regulators would learn how to regulate and manufacturers would earn certifications. For AV tech to succeed, “we need a way to validate it for safety,” he says.
SunTrax, the state’s 475-acre autonomous vehicle test site, is next door to the university. In July, the Mobility Institute launched PolyVerif, an open-source testing platform, in conjunction with a group that includes Japanese open-source Autoware and an Estonian public shuttle system built on open-source software.