Michael Lin Dissertation Defense

December 15, 2020
2:00pm — 4:00pm ET

Dissertation Title: Affordable Autonomous Lightweight Personal Mobility


Self-driving cars and Micro-Mobility services are among the most important trends in the mobility landscape. While Robotaxi services are still in the pilot phase, residents in many cities today are adopting micro-mobility services as a more affordable and energy-efficient last-mile alternative to traditional forms of transportation. 

This Ph.D. proposes a new genre of urban mobility by bringing together the advantages of micro-mobility with those of the self-driving car. This dissertation presents a novel vehicle design that leverages the safety and autonomous navigation capabilities of a self-driving car while remaining ecologically responsible, lightweight, and affordable. In addition, the novel design enables new types of urban mobility services with the ability to operate autonomously in bike lanes and low-speed urban environments and to provide door-to-door mobility delivery of both people and goods.

The completion of the proposed autonomous vehicle takes a bottom-up approach by piecing together modularized hardware components and software blocks giving rise to autonomous functionality. During the development of these systems, multiple full-scale working prototypes were completed, each designed to explore a specific research goal. The testing and evaluation of these prototypes were conducted within an urban living lab using the bike lanes of Cambridge, Taipei, and Andorra. Each prototype concludes with a public exhibition demonstrating the validity of these systems when applied to hypothetical mobility scenarios of the future. 

This dissertation includes the following five contributions:

  1. A new genre of mobility that enables novel mobility services of the future.
  2. A software framework for autonomous navigation which utilizes low-cost sensors and computers. 
  3. A set of Human-Machine interactions using state-of-the-art autonomous vehicle perception as input for establishing effective Vehicle-to-Pedestrian communications.
  4. A new methodology for road tests and evaluating these systems in the living environment. 
  5. The introduction of a possible decentralized community-based mobility industry. This dissertation will describe the research story of successful cooperation across academic institutions, cities, industries, and borders.

Committee members: 

Kent Larson, Principal Research Scientist, City Science Group, MIT Media Lab
Hiroshi Ishii, Jerome B. Wiesner Professor, Tangible Media group, MIT Media Lab
Sertac Karaman, Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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