Joanna De Los Santos: Safety Verification of Autonomous Vehicle Trajectories

New York Institution of Technology Student Spends Summer at the Controls of a Driverless Car

Students are returning to class with stories to tell about what they did over summer break. But how many can say they spent the summer at the controls of a driverless car? Joanna De Los Santos can.

As part of a prestigious National Science Foundation program, she spent 10 weeks in Tucson with nine other college students helping advance the University of Arizona’s CAT vehicle, or cognitive and autonomous test vehicle.

The NSF program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, provides opportunities for undergraduates to work with faculty mentors and graduate students at universities throughout the United States.

“I had the benefit of mentors and professors who have been doing this for years,” said De Los Santos. So I got to catch on to an expert’s view very quickly.”

De Los Santos and two teammates worked on designing a mobile interface for safety verification of autonomous vehicle trajectories. And they learned a great deal about what it means to do research.

“The students left here knowing what research was and how interested they were in doing research,” said UA electrical and computer engineering professor Jonathan Sprinkle, a recent NSF Career Award winner who led the 2013 University of Arizona REU program.

Whether or not De Los Santos chooses to further pursue a research path, she is sure of one thing.

“People are going to want to drive autonomous vehicles, and being a part of that innovation has been great!”


To view a video about Joanna De Los Santos’ REU experience, visit

For more on the UA CAT vehicle program, visit

To learn about the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, visit


Professor Jonathan Sprinkle, University of Arizona College of Engineering