The U.S. Air Force recently presented Dr. Sicun Gao, an assistant professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at UC San Diego, with a 2018 Young Investigator Award for his research on artificial intelligence (AI). Gao develops algorithms to create smarter and safer autonomous systems, such as driverless vehicles and cardiac pacemakers. The fundamental goal, he says, is to reach a much higher level of automation and rigor in engineering these systems, and to ensure that they work exactly as they’re supposed to.
This line of research is critical for the future of AI and robotics, especially for technologies woven into everyday life. Driverless vehicles, for example, have to navigate busy streets and respond to unanticipated human behaviors, like jaywalking, while cardiac pacemakers can have an unfortunate habit of jolting the heart with electricity when it’s not needed. Gao develops automated reasoning tools to help these systems react more intelligently and reliably in scenarios where public safety is at risk. The Young Investigator Award provides Gao with three years of funding and a direct line for feedback from the Air Force, which plans to use the open-source tools produced by his research to develop various mission-critical autonomous systems.
By Xochitl Rojas-Rocha