USA Driving Challenge

Interview with Advisory Board Member Pawel Gora

As we reach the end of our USA Driving challenge, High School HeroesX wanted to highlight one of the members of our advisory board, who is also a judge of final submissions!

The below interview was conducted by one of our summer interns, Dylan Gambardella. Dylan also won our annual Summer Intern Impact Award, for his passion for social impact and dedication to the organization. Without further ado, get to know Dr. Gora a little better!

 

What first made you interested in computer science? Did you have any unique experiences as a child or student that drove you to the field?

I really liked computers and playing computer games, I was very curious about how computers work and how to develop programs which are run on computers. Also, I really liked mathematics and I felt that I am very good at math – in primary school and high school I achieved great results in several competitions in mathematics and physics. In one of the contests, I won a great book “Algorithmics: The Spirit Of Computing” authored by David Harel. I felt that the algorithmics is a really interesting domain and a great application of mathematics. My computer science classes in high school confirmed that assumption and later I decided to study Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Warsaw.

 

What are some of the projects you are currently working on? What are you aiming to uncover?

I am working mostly on traffic modelling, prediction and optimization. I am developing software for a traffic simulation in a large scale, so I am aiming to make it as realistic and consistent with real traffic data as possible (that’s why it is important to identify patterns in drivers’ behaviour). Also, I am working on approximating outcomes of traffic simulations using machine learning algorithms, e.g., neural networks and random forests. From a practical point of view, it is important to be able to train machine learning algorithms as fast as possible, so I am trying to find relations between traffic states with different settings (e.g., different configurations of traffic signals). I am also working on traffic prediction in atypical conditions, e.g., in case of roadworks, car accidents and bad weather, so I am aiming to find correlations between such atypical cases and traffic conditions. In case of a success, we can predict in advance how traffic may look like even in case of very atypical conditions, so we can manage it better and build proactive traffic management systems. I am also very interested in connected and autonomous vehicles and I am working on traffic models including such cars, trying to find algorithms of drive which may make traffic as safe and efficient as possible. AI and machine learning may be crucial in these cases.

 

What are some of the possible implications of your research on vehicle traffic patterns?

I think that especially thanks to applications of AI, it may be possible to manage traffic much better than nowadays and introduce connected and autonomous vehicles, which, thanks to their reliability and shorter reaction time, may significantly change vehicle traffic patterns (e.g., there may be increase of a level of traffic density at which jams occur).

 

What is something you believe that the majority of people may call ‘crazy’ today?

In case of traffic: we can organize our cities and transport in a way that there will be no traffic jams and (almost) no car accidents and victims.

 

In general: it is possible that thanks to AI and new technologies people will not have to work at all (and they will still live a very happy and peaceful life). But it will depend on how we develop and use AI.

 

Why do you believe it is important for students in high school to engage in critical thinking and problem solving at the scale of this ‘challenge’?

It may develop imagination and technical skills of young people and help them understand better how the world works, what are crucial issues that we have to solve for ourselves and for the society and what are essential causes of such problems and crucial difficulties. Transportation problems (and real world problems, in general) are much more complex than most of problems that students learn to solve at school.

 

If Dr. Pawel Gora was not a computer scientist, he would be a _____.

Well, I like sport, but I doubt that I would be a professional sportsman. Probably, I would be still close to science, mathematics or physics. I also like startups and innovative thinking, so maybe I would be an entrepreneur (in fact, I am already also an entrepreneur, business angel and mentor for some startups).

 

Any comments for our challenge participants? Perhaps some advice?

Think about problems which you see in this world (especially in the transportation area, as in case of this challenge). Then, think about your hobbies and interests, what do you like to do, what are your passions, what are you good at, and how it can help solve problems which you identified. A lot of great solutions, startups and businesses grew because people started thinking about problems which they had encountered (and had been common to many other people) and how their passions may help in solving them. Think big and don’t be afraid to dream and tackle challenges which are difficult. As Albert Einstien said, “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity,” and, “Logic can get you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere.”

 

Thank you Dr. Pawel!

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Categories: USA Driving Challenge

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