Making safer, smarter, and connected autonomous vehicles

November 13, 2018

Headshot of Robert Kluger

Taking a position at the J.B. Speed School in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department is close to a homecoming for Dr. Robert Kluger. Hailing from Cincinnati, Kluger’s studies have taken him around the country, researching new ways to improve connected and autonomous vehicles. For the last several years, Kluger has resided in Tucson, AZ, where he completed his postdoctoral degree. His return to the Ohio Valley marks a new beginning.

“My father was a professor. He teaches finance at the University of Cincinnati,” said Kluger. “That’s one of the reasons that I was excited to be in Louisville. It’s close to home.”

In high school, Kluger gravitated towards math and science. It was through that interest that he went into Civil Engineering, wherein he pursued a tract in transportation, specifically how infrastructural improvements can enhance safety measures for autonomous vehicles. Those studies took him to Georgia Tech for his undergraduates degree, University of Virginia for his Master’s and PhD, and onto to the University of Arizona for his postdoctoral work. 

“What I care about for my research to be is to make society better. I’m not here to make a bunch of models that never get used,” said Kluger. “In the long run, I don’t see myself satisfied with that type of result.”

While working on his PhD, he worked for the US Department of Transportation (DOT) through an Eisenhower Graduate Research Fellowship in the Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center. The relationship was reciprocal: Kluger worked for the USDOT, and they provided him with datasets connected to his work on a vehicle safety pilot, particularly pertaining to connected vehicle technology.

That technology allows vehicles to talk to each other, opening channels between vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure. While automated vehicles are currently not reliant on connected vehicle technology, integrating those systems will allow for a more robust set of criteria to help navigate more effectively and safely in advance of their sensor sweep.

Throughout his education, Kluger has had several opportunities to teach students. Initially starting off as a distance educator while in Washington D.C., he was fortunate enough to teach a variety of courses while in Arizona. To prepare, Kluger builds in plenty of time to keep up with the material, reading through the textbook and staying apprised of changes in his field.

He sees his time teaching as an opportunity to connect with students and to keep his research sharp.

“Teaching makes a big a difference. Being able to engage the students is one of the biggest challenges,” said Kluger. “I do my best to keep up with the more active learning approaches or modern day practices. But I’m also trying to balance that with keeping up with the material for the week. If you aren’t familiar with the content, they’re going to know.”

He has spent his time since arrival continuing to build on his relationships and prepare for class, while learning about his new city. Kluger, who enjoys new restaurants and exploring the outdoors, shares the same enthusiasm for education and research as he does learning about the world around him.

“I’ve always been one to embrace moving around,” said Kluger. “I’ve always enjoyed checking out new places.”