2019 Engineering and Public Policy Mini-Symposium

To celebrate the launch of our Engineering and Public Policy Program the College of Engineering, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering in conjunction with the Biden School of Public Policy held a mini-symposium on November 22nd, 2019 to introduce our affiliated faculty and share opportunities for collaboration and participation.

Mini Symposium Agenda

1:30 pm: Welcome, introductions and program overview

  • Introduction: Arde Faghri, Program Director Engineering and Public Policy
  • Welcome: Dr. Robin Morgan, Provost, University of Delaware
  • Remarks: Rachel Davidson, Associate Dean of the College of Engineering, and Dr. Maria P. Aristigueta, Director of the Biden School of Public Policy
  • Overview of the Program: Sue McNeil, Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering

2: 00 pm: Energy and the environment: Lightning talks and discussion

3:00 pm: Break

3:15 pm: Transportation, infrastructure and smart cities: Lightning talks and discussion

4:00 pm: Introduction of the Keynote Speaker: John Pelesko, Dean of Arts and Sciences, University of Delaware

Keynote: Alain Kornhauser, Princeton University

4:45pm: Reception – Deer Park Tavern, 108 W Main St, Newark, DE 19711

Keynote Speaker

Alain Kornhauser
Professor of Operations Research & Financial Engineering
Director, Transportation Program
Faculty Chair, Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering
Princeton University

Professor Kornhauser’s has leveraged his background in aerospace to apply advanced technology to more conventional forms of transportation including personal basic research Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems and Smart Driving Cars. His work is closely tied to solving issues around mobility, accessibility and affordability, and the connection to quality of life. He served as the Faculty Leader of Princeton’s entries the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and 2007 Urban Challenge and continues his interest in the complete automation of the automobile. He serves as Editor of the Smart Driving Cars Newsletter and Board Chair of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA). He holds a BS and MS from University of Minnesota and a PhD from Princeton. He joined the faculty at Princeton in 1972.

Lightning Talks

Energy and the Environment

James Corbett: Decarbonizing Transportation Requires Rethinking Freight Systems and Passenger Mobility

Any successful strategies to achieve real and transforming energy conservation and GHG reduction targets must engage new technologies, alternative energies, modal infrastructure redesign, and behavior changes by operators and logistics providers.  Freight systems in particular may offer new opportunities to work across energy carrying fuels and technologies, vehicle and payload configurations, multimodal network designs for road and rail (etc.!).  However, no engineering innovations will achieve these goals – without considering the economics of commerce in the national and global economy.  Moreover, the behavior changes that will be needed – or conversely, the behavior responses that could impede technology-first “solutions” – require policy action.  This presentation will use freight systems to outline the challenges of decarbonization.  We will identify how technology, energy, and behavior need to be considered jointly to meet public goals for mitigating GHG emissions.  And we will identify the complex policy agents and fora that must be engaged cooperatively by technologists, energy providers, and economic behavioralists.

A.R. Siders: You can build it — but is it legal? Engineering and law solutions to climate adaptation 

Climate change demands innovative ways to engineer and design infrastructure. Sometimes these innovative solutions, however, are stymied by laws. Floating houses in flood-prone areas must meet building code requirements for water and septic hook ups. Floating cities to house sinking island nation peoples are currently illegal under maritime law. Un-building at-risk areas can pose problems for cities who have legal obligations to provide roads and other services. Only by engineers and lawyers working together can we find solutions to transform both our built and legal environments. 

Julia Maresca: Engineering responses to emerging antibiotic-resistant diseases 

Antibiotics have, over the past hundred years, dramatically changed not just human health, but also animal health and agricultural practices. However, many diseases are now resistant to commonly-used antibiotics, in part due to antibiotic overuse, ineffective disease prevention strategies, and waste management practices not aimed at destroying antibiotics or antibiotic resistance genes. Based on the recent CDC report (“Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States”), both policymakers and engineers must contribute to strategies for prevention and control of the  spread of these diseases.

Saleem H. Ali: Elements of Power: How Engineering and Policy rely on the Periodic Table

In June 2019, the U.S. government published a strategy to assess critical minerals supply security. Much of the focus of this effort was on the minerals needed for U.S. defense and manufacturing prowess. However, the core mineral challenge for the U.S and indeed for most countries will be to source minerals for a range of energy delivery and storage infrastructure. The materials needed for clean and reliable energy deserve singular attention and international governance mechanisms will be essential for their supply security.  

Alethea Sethman: Energy and You!

Energy challenges define our world. From global competition and lightning-quick advances in technology to climate change and fossil fuel depletion, crises in production and consumption threaten our environment, our prosperity, and our future. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we face these energy challenges head-on.

Transportation, Infrastructure and Smart Cities

Philip Barnes: What can the elevator tell us about autonomous vehicles?

This talk will offer a novel method to identify the expected impacts of automated vehicles. New insights into the policy implications of this emerging technology can be gained by reading a social history of the elevator’s transition from manual operation to push-button autonomy. The consequences of this late-19th and early-20th Century transition include deskilling, short-term job losses, colonization of space, and spatial segregation of social classes. Each of these outcomes is possible with a manual-to-automated vehicle transition, with equally important public policy challenges. 

Greg Dobler: The Urban Observatory: Using Measurable Dynamics of Complex Urban Systems for Better Cities

With millions of interacting people and hundreds of governing agencies, urban environments are the largest, most dynamic, and most complex macroscopic systems on Earth.  All of that complexity can be boiled down to interactions between the three fundamental components of cities: the human, natural, and built environments.  I will describe how persistent, synoptic imaging of an urban skyline at visible and infrared wavelengths can be used to better understand the urban system and how we at the Urban Observatory – a multi-institutional facility designed to study complex urban systems – are combining techniques from the domains of astronomy, physics, engineering, computer vision, remote sensing, and machine learning to address a myriad of questions related to urban informatics and its implications for evidenced-based policy making.  I will show how this data from the Urban Observatory can provide new insights into cities as living organisms that consume energy, have environmental impact, and display characteristic patterns of life and how that new understanding can be used to improve city functioning and quality of life for its inhabitants.

Earl (Rusty) Lee: Pedestrian Behavior and Autonomous Vehicles

Any time a pedestrian crosses the street outside of a signalized crosswalk, they are making a risk-reward mental calculation. Are the benefits of crossing at this location and not proceeding to a signalized crosswalk greater than the risk of injury or death? They hope that drivers are being attentive and that vehicles are properly maintained so that the driver will not collide with them. In many cases, this risk is what keeps pedestrians on sidewalks, because drivers do not expect to see them in the roadway. In areas like Newark, the large student population and frequent street crossings keep drivers more attentive and expecting anything. But how will this risk reward calculation change in the presence of autonomous vehicles. Pedestrians know that the vehicle is programmed to not hit them. With no reliance on human drivers and faster perception-reaction times, will pedestrians tend to exhibit riskier behavior. The benefits outside of urban areas will be obvious. Pedestrian injuries and deaths should drop to nearly zero. But in urban areas, less risk could result in more frequent pedestrian crossings turning city streets into pedestrian malls. Will the urban landscape need to change to prevent pedestrian crossings at unintended locations?

Mark Nejad: How can Blockchain help autonomous transportation systems?
Real-time decision making in autonomous transportation systems (ATS) relies on processing traffic data. The assurance of the integrity and security of traffic data over its life cycle is a critical aspect to the design of decision-making frameworks for ATS. In addition, ATS should comply with regulatory restrictions such as the General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act. In 2008, the Bitcoin cryptocurrency system and its key technology, Blockchain, were introduced in which distributed ledgers of verified transactions are created with no central control. We propose a Blockchain-inspired approach for real-time and distributed decision-making and information sharing mechanisms for ATS.