Teenage Boffin's Research Could Help Self-driving Cars Avoid Crashes

Advances in theory of pattern avoidance could prevent fender benders

1 min read
Teenage Boffin's Research Could Help Self-driving Cars Avoid Crashes
Photo: Siemens Foundation

The winners of the 15th Annual Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology  were announced yesterday. The individual winner was Peter Tian, a senior at The Wellington School in Columbus, Ohio. Tian was awarded a US $100,000 college scholarship for his mathematical research on pattern avoidance multidimensional matrices. The advance, say the competition’s judges and other observers, will help improve the performance of self-driving cars and drones by making them better at obstacle avoidance.

Tian was one of 2263 students who submitted projects for consideration. His project, Extremal Functions of Forbidden Multidimensional Matrices, advances the theoretical understanding of pattern avoidance, which may let computers consistently identify the shortest rectilinear path around obstacles in space.

The potential applications to drone programming and self-driving cars—and even to circuit design—were immediately obvious. But Tian, whose goal is to become a mathematics professor, was just as interested in what his work means for pure mathematics. His project has a direct application to hypergraphs and may be useful in areas including computational geometry.

"One of the more striking results is the way Peter was able to build on previous work by generalizing standard results and adding multi-dimensions,” James Haglund, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Street. “His work forms a wonderful basis for future graduate research, and he hasn't even studied at the undergraduate level yet!”

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

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Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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