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Braunschweig 2007 Research Prize for Dr. Sebastian Thrun

July 20, 2007

German City of Science 2007 awards its first €30,000 prize for interdisciplinary research achievements.


BRAUNSCHWEIG, Germany--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dr. Sebastian Thrun, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, has been honored with the Braunschweig Research Prize 2007 for his achievements in sensors, sensor fusion, artificial intelligence, and driver assistance systems. The City of Braunschweig and the Research Region Braunschweig e.V., the co-sponsors, made the official announcement today. The City of Braunschweig has endowed the prize money of €30,000.

The 39-year old scientist has received the citation for his special interdisciplinary research achievements in the design and building of an unmanned robotic car, which won the DARPA Grand Challenge 2005, a race among autonomous robotic vehicles.

Thrun was chosen as the winner on July 11, 2007, by a blue-ribbon jury of various representatives from science, business, politics, and the media. The jury was chaired by the mayor of Braunschweig, Dr. Gert Hoffmann. Other members included the Minister President of Lower Saxony, Christian Wulff; Dr. Christian Floto, head of the department "Science and Education" of German radio; Dr. Jürgen Mlynek, president of the Helmholtz Society of German Research Centers; Dr. Helga Rübsamen-Waigmann, head of AiCuris GmbH & Co KG, Bayer pharmaceuticals center; and Dr. Martin Winterkorn, board chairman of Volkswagen AG.

"With the results of his research, Prof. Sebastian Thrun has provided important knowledge in the areas of robotics and machine learning. On the basis of his outstanding reports on the topic of 'Driver Assistance Systems' and by participating in many international conferences, he has given an enormous push forward to the field of autonomous driving and driving assistance, and has given the field a positive image in the general public," said Mayor Dr. Gert Hoffmann in giving the reasons for the choice. The ceremony for the presentation of the Braunschweig Research Prize is planned for November 10, 2007.

Thrun and his research team faced a large and complex challenge in the Grand Challenge 2005. An unmanned robotic car was to cover a stretch of 132 miles through rough terrain in the Mojave Desert in the U.S. Southwest. Special research results were necessary to design the self-steering vehicle and to adapt the radar sensory apparatus to the difficult conditions of the competition. Prof. Thrun developed his findings in close collaboration with the research department of Volkswagen AG. The research strategy was developed on the basis of robust algorithms for the identification of the rough driving terrain, and in the end that strategy was the decisive factor in winning the race. The vehicle itself was later built in cooperation with associates from the Braunschweig region in the workshops of the Wolfsburg research concern, and stood out in the competition for its very high reliability of vehicle components.

Starting November 3, 2007, the Grand Challenge will be renewed by the Urban Challenge 2007. Prof. Thrun has been an important force in creating the rules of the Urban Challenge, which presents requirements for future driving functions in built-up urban environments. These rules also apply to the research activity of over 50 university and industrial teams who are competing in this competition of driver assistance systems.

Prof. Sebastian Thrun completed his studies in informatics at the Universities of Hildesheim and Bonn. At Carnegie Mellon University he specialized in robotics and machine learning. Since 2004 he has been director of the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University.

Braunschweig Research Prize
The city of Braunschweig in 2007 was awarded the title "Germany's City of Science 2007" by the Foundation for German Science; the city was cited for its enormous research potential and its outstanding networks of science, business, and the community. It funds the €30,000 research prize, given every two years upon recommendation of the research and development institutions of the region. The prize recognizes internationally outstanding interdisciplinary research results gained in the spheres of technology, life sciences, and cultural activity. The jury's selection is influenced by the special engagement of scientists in the transfer and use of science in the economy and society.

The Braunschweig Research Prize is the successor to the Braunschweig Prize. Endowed with €30,000, it is being awarded for the first time in the fall of 2007 The sponsors of the prize are the City of Braunschweig and Society for the Braunschweig Research Area e.V.

Further information on the research prize and the research committee may be found here.

DARPA Challenge 2005 The DARPA Grand Challenge 2005 was a race among autonomous robotic cars that took place in the Mojave Desert in the U.S. Southwest from October 8 to 9, 2005. The race is the second competition in the DARPA initiated program for the furthering of development of autonomous vehicles (DARPA - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The Stanford University team won the two-million dollar prize for the race with a modified VW Touareg named "Stanley." A total of 195 teams from 36 states in the U.S. and from 4 foreign countries registered for the race. After a pre-selection process, 43 of these teams were invited for a qualifying round to provide evidence of the suitability of their vehicles and so to qualify for the race. Twenty-three vehicles qualified, and they competed against each other in the race.

About Dr. Sebastian Thrun
Born 1967 in Solingen, Germany

1988 initial degree (B.Sc.) in informatics, economics, and medicine, University of Hildesheim, Germany

1993 advanced degree (M.Sc.) in informatics and statistics, University of Bonn, Germany

1995 final degree (Ph.D.) in informatics and statistics, University of Bonn

1995-1998 Research Computer Scientist, Computer Science Department, Carnegie Mellon University

1998-2003 Assistant Professor and from 2001 Associate Professor of computer science, robotics and automated learning and discovery, Carnegie Mellon University.

2003-present Associate Professor of computer science and (since 2006) electrical engineering, Stanford University. Since 2004 Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL)

Prizes
1994 Second place, AAAI autonomous mobile robot competition.

1996 First place, AAAI autonomous mobile robot competition.

1998 Best conference paper, National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

1999-2003 NSF CAREER

1999 Best conference paper, German Conference of the German Society for Pattern Recognition (DAGM).

2000 Best conference paper, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).

2001 Olympus award, German Society for Pattern Recognition (DAGM)

2002 Finmeccanica endowed faculty chair, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.

2003 Best conference paper, International Conference of Field and Service Robotics (FSR). Best conference paper, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). Best student conference paper, International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS).

2003-2006 Reid and Polly Anderson Scholar and (until 2004) David Filo and Jerry Yang Faculty Scholar, Stanford School of Engineering.

2004 Honorable mention, 2004 IJCAI-JAIR best paper prize.

2005 Leader of the Stanford Racing Team that won the DARPA Grand Challenge.

2006 Vance D. and Arlene C. Coffman Scholar II, Stanford School of Engineering.

2006 World Technology Award and Fellow (category: IT-software), World Technology Network. Elected AAAI Fellow (American Association of Artificial Intelligence). Elected ECCAI Fellow (European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence).

2007 Member, National Academy of Engineering

Background on "Braunschweig - Europe's Hottest Research Area"
The Braunschweig research cluster is the most research intensive region in Europe, according to a recent EU study. In exact numbers this means that Braunschweig reached a top share of 7.1% of R&D expenditures of gross domestic product, which can also be compared internationally. In contrast, California, with its research center in Silicon Valley, in 2001 spent only 3.8% of its gross domestic product on research and development.

Germany's City of Science 2007 - An Overview
The Braunschweig City of Science 2007 think tank for ideas was set up jointly by the Association for the Research Region Braunschweig e.V., the City of Braunschweig, Braunschweig Stadtmarketing GmbH, and many businesses. The competition "City of Science" is an initiative of the Foundation for German Science. Each year one city is marked out that uses science as a motor for urban development, that provokes enthusiasm among its citizens for science, and has established successful networks among science, business, culture, and politics. PricewaterhouseCoopers, Eurohypo AG is the program partner of the Foundation for the "City of Science 2007" competition.

Contacts
Municipal Coordinating Office for Science 2007
Braunschweig Stadtmarketing GmbH
Susanne Thiele
Tel.: 0531 / 4 70 37 59
Fax: 0531 / 4 70 44 45
susanne.thiele@braunschweig.de
www.braunschweig.de/stadt-der-wissenschaft
 


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