William “Red” Whittaker’s contributions to the field of artificial intelligence through innovation and achievement in autonomous vehicle research, as signified by his team’s victory in the 2007 Urban Challenge robot race, have won him a share of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s (AAAI) inaugural Feigenbaum Prize.
For their roles in moving the autonomous vehicle from the realm of fiction to reality, Whittaker and Sebastian Thrun, a former Carnegie Mellon faculty member now at Stanford University, will jointly receive the $10,000 prize at the opening ceremony of AAAI-11 Aug. 9 in San Francisco.
Whittaker, the Fredkin University Professor of Robotics, led the Tartan Racing team that developed Boss, a self-driving SUV that negotiated traffic and an urban streetscape to win the $2 million race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Thrun, director of the Stanford AI Lab, led the Stanford Racing team that won DARPA’s 2005 Grand Challenge robot race on a desert course.
"The shared award recognizes the technical leadership and vision of Red and Sebastian who worked with their respective teams at CMU and Stanford to solve challenging problems with machine perception, learning, and decision making in the open world," said Eric Horvitz, chair of the Feigenbaum prize committee and the immediate past president of AAAI.
The AAAI Feigenbaum Prize was established in 2010 and is awarded biennially to recognize and encourage outstanding artificial intelligence research advances that are made by using experimental methods of computer science. It is named for Edward Feigenbaum, an AI pioneer who earned his PhD at Carnegie Mellon in 1959. Feigenbaum, now Kumagai Professor of Computer Science Emeritus at Stanford, won computer science’s highest research honor, the Turing Award, in 1995. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he was the second president of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, serving from 1980-81, and was elected to AAAI Fellowship in 1990.