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Driving fatalities off the road

April 11, 2019

ASU talk examines future of self-driving cars with Waymo chief external officer

In 2017, about 40,000 people died in car accidents, according to the National Safety Council. The vast majority of those accidents were caused by human error.

Self-driving car companies see themselves as the answer to that problem.

A talk at Arizona State University Thursday evening looked into the future of self-driving cars and potential impacts of the technology.

Tekedra Mawakana, chief external officer at Waymo, talked with Andrew Maynard, professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society about social and policy-related challenges of developing self-driving car technology.

Mawakana, who leads communications, marketing and public affairs at Waymo, said they aren’t in the car business at all.

“Our goal is to build the world’s most experienced driver,” she said. “We’re not building cars.”

Waymo has been testing its technology in the Valley for a little more than two years. The cars use a combination of many technologies, including lidar and radar, to form a 360-degree picture of the surroundings.

back of self-driving Waymo car

One of Waymo's Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans sits on display before "Let’s Talk Self-Driving: A Fireside Conversation" with Waymo’s Tekedra Mawakana and ASU Professor Andrew Maynard. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“How does it learn what’s what?” asked Maynard, a leading expert on the socially responsible development of emerging and converging technologies. How does it differentiate a kid dashing across a street from a plastic bag blowing along the road?

The cars measure everything, down to the height of the curb. Critical info is shared across the fleet, anything from what different intersections are like (stop sign? traffic light? crossing guard?) to problem areas to avoid, like an accident scene. The technology also takes note of everything around it, from people to buildings to other cars.

The Valley, with its wide streets and perpetual sunshine, is an easy place to drive, Maynard noted. Is Waymo testing anywhere more challenging?

“We look for climates that test us,” Tekedra said. The company is testing in 24 cities, including snowy Colorado and the rainy Pacific Northwest.

How are backup drivers trained? “Their job is to remain alert,” she said. “There are a lot of humans around our cars who aren’t alert.”

Maynard brought up the fatality in Tempe last March, which occurred when a pedestrian ran out in front of an Uber self-driving vehicle and was killed.

“We are here to prevent that,” Tekedra said. “Days like that remind us of why we’re here.”

She called attention to the fact that despite 40,000 people dying on the nation’s roads each year, Americans don’t treat it as a mass casualty.

“There’s a part of driving that’s unsafe, and we’re comfortable with that,” she said. “These are risks that are worth taking because it’s better than the status quo."

Waymo is formerly the Google Self-Driving Car project — a technology company, not a car company.

“Do you have the institutional know-how?” Maynard asked.

Waymo makes the self-driving tech, not the actual cars, Tekedra said, which are made by Chrysler and other auto companies.

“We’re not actually in the auto industry,” she said.

What will 50 years from now look like? Maynard asked.

Fewer than 1,000 people dying each year in car accidents, and kids not knowing roads used to be dangerous places, Tekedra said.

Top photo: Waymo's Tekedra Mawakana talks with Professor Andrew Maynard about the challenges and opportunities of developing autonomous car technology and its effect on drivers at ASU's Marston Theater on April 11, 2019. Mawakana is the chief external officer and oversees the company's public policy and governmental relations, public affairs, communications, marketing and social policy. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502

 
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April 12, 2019

Get to know some of the most outstanding graduates from across the university

On May 6, thousands of ASU students will move their tassels to the left side of their mortarboards and head into the next phase of their journey. Before they do, ASU Now is taking a look at some of the most impressive graduates.

Sarah Dillon

Grad learned to value herself as a researcher, student and person while at ASU

Sarah Dillon, who will be receiving her master’s degree in geological sciences this May from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, jumped at the opportunity to work on an analytical instrument in the SIMS lab, which had been a goal of hers.

David Ackerman

Dean's Medalist combines love of math, programming and astronomy

David Ackerman chose to attend Arizona State University not only because it was affordable and close to home, but because it offered the opportunity to get involved in research right from the start. His combination of research, contributions to the university and impressive academic record earned him the honor of Dean’s Medalist for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences this semester.

Emily bobel

Psychology graduate researches link between childhood trauma and impaired control over drinking

Depression and anxiety disorders affect almost 20% of the American population, including 25% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Emily Bobel, a psychology major, wanted to find out if depression could be a missing link connecting childhood trauma and problems with alcohol consumption.

Nathanael Pierce

Philosophy major leaves legacy of opportunity for undergrads

A history and philosophy double major, Nathanael Pierce is an ardent proponent of involvement in academic pursuits beyond the minimum requirements and wanted to bring that opportunity to students at ASU.

Cami Mcintire

Personal Growth in Human Relationships class helps graduate find her field of study

Cami Mcintire, a family and human development major in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, talks about the importance of taking classes you love, getting to know your faculty and following your passion. 

Aira Valera

Sanford School grad follows her passion for helping families

Aira Valera resisted outside pressures and found a major she was passionate about: family and human development. Here, she shares practical advice on finding yourself — and finding the best restrooms on campus. 

Bailey Reynolds

Life lessons propel conservation biology graduate toward environmental law 

Bailey Reynolds chose to attend Arizona State University for three reasons. First, it’s close to home. Second, its dedicated to inclusivity. And third, she figured with a school as large as ASU, she would have a lot of opportunities to find her calling. And find it, she did.

Emily smith

Psychology undergraduate strives to help families and kids in need

Have you ever wondered how infants convert a bunch of different sounds into language?  Emily Smith, who will graduate with a double major in psychology and human development, completed an honor’s research thesis on that questions.

Alex Miller

An early love of space exploration led ASU grad to a career in the stratosphere

Early trips to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum instilled in Alex Miller a dream of human space exploration which later developed into a keen interest in robotic space exploration and astronomy. This May, Miller will be graduating with a PhD in Exploration Systems Design.

Clive Matsika

Analyzing data brings opportunity for mechanical engineering student

May graduate Clive Matsika, a mechanical engineering major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, was one of five students globally to be awarded a Facebook National Society of Black Engineers Analytics Scholarship to attend NSBE’s 45th annual convention in Detroit.

Chiara Hommel

Dual history and biology undergrad puts her thesis under lights 

Chiara Hommel wanted to work with animals and began her career at ASU as a biology major, but after taking a history class her sophomore year, she decided to add on another degree.

Kimberly Terasaki

ASU creative writing graduate is a wizard with words

Graduating Arizona State University student Kimberly Terasaki has known since she was a child that she wanted to be a writer. That a book series about a boy wizard was “birthed” the same year as she was may have helped to inspire her career choice; in essence, Terasaki and Harry Potter grew up together. Terasaki is completing a Bachelor of Arts in English (creative writing) this spring, with a minor in sustainability. 

Paula Kibuka Musoke

Global health student finds passion, mentors and more at ASU

For Paula Kibuka Musoke, college has been about pushing herself out of her comfort zone. As a native of Norway, it’s hard to imagine a more drastic climate difference than the deserts of Arizona, and yet that is exactly where she chose to make her academic home.

Alexa Drew

A proud Sun Devil ready to launch into a scientific career

Alexa Drew had always planned on attending ASU, but it wasn’t until her time at Mesa Community College that she realized that her interests were specifically geared towards both astronomy and biology; and that ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration had the bachelor’s degree she was looking for. 

Brandon Favre

Science’s 'cool' factor inspires molecular biology master’s degree graduate

School of Life Sciences graduate Brandon Favre tackled both genetic engineering and graduate student mental health while getting his Master of Science at ASU. And it all began with a bacteria modified to glow under a black light.

Lena Bonds

Graduate aims to set example for son with social work career

“I think it’s really important that anyone that has gone through any kind of adversity, to use that as a fuel to go and help others,” said Lena Bonds, an online student in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Bonds is graduating with her bachelor’s degree from the T. Denny Sanford School for Social and Family Dynamics in May.

Colin Redman

Computer science student develops software for gathering evidence for speech and debate 

Graduate Colin Redman has spent the past eight years competing in speech and debate — four years at his high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and four years as a member of ASU’s Forensics Team housed in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

Rosemary Huck

Student athlete pursues interest in geography 

Water and earth are two driving forces in Rosemary Huck's life. The Manchester, England, native, who came to ASU to play on the water polo team, used her time here to learn more about geomorphology, the study of the physical features of the surface of the earth and their relation to its geological structures.

George Brusch

First-gen student defeats ‘imposter syndrome’ to earn PhD

George Brusch, who will graduate with his PhD in biology this spring, fought to build a community for underrepresented students after struggling to find his place in a university setting.

Bryce Newberry

Cronkite student said no to all roadblocks

Bryce Newberry is a "yes man" in the best sense. He's always up for a challenge and never shies away from a new opportunity. This has served him well as a student and as a journalist. “I’m of the belief that when a student is in college, you should say yes to as many things as possible. You never know what might lead to something else,” he said.

Anna Wanless

Lifelong Sun Devil turns longtime interest in weather into degree

When Anna Wanless was growing up, her Sun Devil parents brought her to campus and football games. At the same time, she became interested in meteorology. That passion brought her to the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, where she studied geography, with a concentration on meteorology and climatology.

Avery Underwood

Open doors help biology master’s degree grad find niche

Born and raised in Tempe, School of Life Sciences graduate student Avery Underwood always wanted to attend Arizona State University. She found a perfect research fit in assistant professor Melissa Wilson's lab after seeing a guest lecture by Wilson talking about her background in mathematics and her research on sex differences.

Paris Masek

ASU doctoral grad transforms communities with food knowledge

Paris Masek is graduating from ASU this spring with a PhD in English literature. That seems straightforward; however, like most of Masek does, it’s not. That this Phoenix resident is earning his doctorate represents a circular, holistic journey, a repurposing of experiences and knowledge into something transformational.

Brittany-Rose Tribulski

ASU Online grad uses her education in humanity

Brittany-Rose Tribulski had been teaching English for some time already — even spending a year and a half in Thailand with the MediaKids organization. But the Riverside, California, resident recognized that to meet her goals as an English teacher she needed more: more expertise, more research, more knowledge.

Erin Bottino 

Mangiamo! ASU grad blends study and sustenance

Graduating ASU student Erin Bottino has managed to combine two very different areas of study — a BA in writing, rhetorics and literacies in the Department of English and a food system sustainability certificate in the School of Sustainability — into one, logical focus: food literacy.

Ellie Millon

It's all business for 2019 W. P. Carey School graduate

Henrielle “Ellie” Millon has had an interest in business since she was in high school. That interest led her to ASU where she will graduate with two bachelor of science degrees — one in finance and the other in marketing — from the W. P. Carey School of Business in May. She also will receive honors from Barrett, The Honors College. 

Fargo Tbakhi

Theater grad finds a second home at the Hugh Downs School

Fargo Tbakhi first learned about the Hugh Downs School and its performance studies program from friends his freshman year who encouraged him to take a class with Jennifer Linde, artistic director of the Empty Space Theater. The decision, Tbakhi said, “basically altered the course of the rest of my college career.”  

Alexandria Paterson

East Asia studies student hopes to have international political impact

Alexandria Paterson’s desire to have a positive impact on the world goes back to when she was a young child and has continued to push her forward into becoming the Dean’s Medalist for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies this semester.

Walker McCrae

Sparky is more than a mascot to 2019 Barrett graduate

Walker McCrae, an ASU student set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in business data analytics and sports business with honors from Barrett, The Honors College, had an alter ego during his undergraduate years: Sparky.

Maryam Abdul Rashid

Sustainability grad brings international perspective

Maryam Abdul Rashid took a big risk enrolling in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Coming from Malaysia, she said sustainability was a foreign concept and people back home questioned what her future might be. But she took the leap anyway — with a big payoff.

Kaitlyn Vanklompenberg

Communication grad credits an optimistic outlook

Senior communication major in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Kaitlyn Vanklompenberg applied and was accepted to ASU's Leadership Scholarship Program, following in the footsteps of her older sister Kat. It also allowed her to develop and craft her leadership skills, as she says, "truly becoming a better leader and human."

Rachel Hill

Spanish lit grad named Dean’s Medal recipient

Rachel Hill, a mother of three enrolled in a 4+1 degree program for Spanish literature and culture, was recently named a Dean's Medalist for the School of International Letters and Cultures.

Maedeh Moayyednia

After fleeing persecution, film student eager to tell stories like hers 

Maedeh Moayyednia’s journey as a refugee has inspired her to become a storyteller through the art of film. Moayyednia, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in film and media production at ASU, has been named the outstanding undergraduate in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

Top photo: Kristin Fanara (left) laughs with Avvi Valdez at the spring 2018 ASU commencement at Chase Field. Photo by Arizona Board of Regents