Researchers Vladimir Vantsevich and Lee Moradi stand in their lab at Gateway Park.

New Faculty Members Vladimir Vantsevich and Lee Moradi Launch Autonomous Vehicle Mobility Institute at WPI

Researchers Plan to Establish a Testing Facility for Simulations
December 07, 2022
Matt Burgos

New faculty members Vladimir Vantsevich and Lee Moradi have established an Autonomous Vehicle Mobility Institute (AVMI) at WPI that is expanding the university’s interdisciplinary research into autonomous vehicle technologies and boosting educational opportunities for students.

Professor Vantsevich and Professor of Practice Moradi, both of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, are building on their extensive experience managing multimillion dollar autonomous vehicle research projects and on WPI’s existing research to position the university as a major contributor to the fields of autonomous vehicles for land, sea, air, and space, says Wole Soboyejo, WPI interim president.

“A significant portion of vehicles on and off roads are expected to be autonomous in the coming decades,” Soboyejo says. “WPI researchers across departments are already doing groundbreaking work in this field, and Vladimir and Lee will allow WPI to transform the scale of our innovations with their expertise and their ability to bring together collaborators with complementary expertise. This will lead to several new opportunities for our students and prepare them for leadership positions in a field that will define the cutting edge of transportation and space exploration."

WPI’s history of autonomous vehicle research spans departments and disciplines. Currently, the  university’s researchers are working on projects such as models to sift through large amounts of sensor data from autonomous systems and software that will enable groups of lunar robots to collaborate while exploring the moon.

Vantsevich and Moradi worked together as members of the faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for a decade before joining the WPI faculty in early 2022. They co-direct AVMI, which focuses on technology for off-road autonomous vehicles that travel across rough terrain—everything from farmland to battlefields to other planets. Their work has been funded by the U.S. Army, NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and industry partners in the United States and Western Europe.

We believe that WPI is an excellent place to engage students, other faculty members, and industry partners in this work.
  • -Vladimir Vantsevich
  • Professor, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

“Much of the current research into autonomous vehicles focuses on cars that travel on roads, but we focus on off-road vehicles, from small robotic vehicles to full-scale vehicles, both manned and unmanned, with as many as 8, 12, or 16 wheels that are driven by electric motors or mechanical drivetrain systems with controls,” Vantsevich says. “The technological challenge for these off-road vehicles is making them intelligent enough to sense and understand the terrain under the wheel to supply in real time the correct amount of power to each wheel and thus improve the vehicle’s terrain mobility, maneuverability, and energy efficiency. We believe that WPI is an excellent place to engage students, other faculty members, and industry partners in this work.”

Vantsevich comes to WPI with a research and engineering focus on mechanical and intelligent mechatronic multi-physics systems with application to vehicle system modeling and simulation, engineering design, and AI-based control. He is the author or co-author of seven technical books and 200 research articles, and he is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. A vehicle design engineer by training, he received his ScD and PhD in automobile and tractor engineering from Belarusian National Technical University.

Moradi received his BS in engineering and his MS and PhD in civil engineering from UAB, worked in industry for 18 years, and then returned to UAB to join its faculty. He was director of the university’s Engineering & Innovative Technology Development, which supported research and development for NASA payloads aboard the International Space Station. He also served as interim chair of the UAB Department of Materials Science and Engineering and as associate dean of research for the UAB School of Engineering.

“I’m very excited to join the faculty of WPI to continue working on autonomous off-road vehicles that could be used in agriculture, construction, the military, and especially planetary exploration,” Moradi says. “As humans continue to explore space, developing autonomous vehicles that can function on other planets under harsh conditions will be of the utmost importance.”

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