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2005 - Christopher Urmson

United States residents spend an average of 52 minutes each day commuting to and from work. 35,000 lives are lost each year to traffic accidents. And only 8% of roads are currently utilized when freeways are most efficient. According to Chris Urmson, who leads the self-driving car program at Google featured in Wired Magazine, technology has the promise to dramatically impact transportation by potentially doubling traffic efficiency and reducing the number of traffic-related accidents by at least 50% through autonomous vehicles.

Chris is excited about the innovative solutions his team develops and tests, and the potential of cars in the future. As a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University, he began examining how problems change as you drive faster and across different terrains. Initially, his interests were in the context of space exploration and research with a robot moving at a walking pace. Then, DARPA announced the first Grand Challenge, and Chris became intrigued with the idea of building a robot that could move at 35 miles per hour. Could a robot drive 170 miles with no human assistance? His team encountered several technical challenges, and rolled two Humvees during their testing – one crash within 10 days of the competition – but Chris was hooked on this exciting new field. 
Prior to Google, he was an Assistant Research Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and directed engineering for the team which won the 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge with a self-driving Chevy Tahoe. His work at Google is very similar to his academic research, but the scale is much larger, with the Google vehicles driving more than 200,000 miles of testing.
Chris received his undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Manitoba. He has two young sons who are growing up with a different perspective than he did, with their father’s colleagues including a Mars Rover driver, the founder of a robotic toy company and a NASA engineer who helped discover water on the moon.