Mizzou Engineering Alum Leads Autonomous Vehicle Testing

July 06, 2020

Intersection at the Transportation Research Center working on Autonomous Vehicle Testing

Intersection at the Transportation Research Center working on Autonomous Vehicle Testing

Imagine your hour-long commute to work, typically taken up by podcasts, the radio or listening to music. But what if you could do more with this time? Mizzou Engineering alum Tanner Thiessen is at the forefront of testing and developing the latest autonomous and connected vehicles to see how your vehicle can make you more productive.

Innovative Facility

Thiessen, a 2016 graduate of the mechanical and aerospace engineering department, works at North America’s most comprehensive test track, The Transportation Research Center located in Ohio. The facility offers the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers, systems makers, and other transportation innovators a full range of engineering, research and testing capabilities as well as compliance and certification testing.  Thiessen and his team are standardizing testing for some of the newest, fully-autonomous vehicles at TRC’s new facility, the SMARTCenter. Using this new test track, they put these vehicles through complicated scenarios while ensuring everyone’s safety at this 540-acre complex.

Aerial view of Transportation Research Center

Aerial view of Transportation Research Center

“This facility was designed to specifically replicate some of the more challenging scenarios for autonomous vehicles. An open highway is an easy thing to navigate but intersections, roundabouts, busy city streets–not so much,” Thiessen said. “This research has the potential to optimize capacity for large delivery trucks, increasing fuel economy and making your commute to work far more productive.”

Safe and Productive Solutions

Moving to autonomous vehicles means more than just getting time back in your daily life. These vehicles could save your life. “You’re going to start seeing a reduction in vehicle fatalities, which is a huge drive behind a lot of this research and development. You will give people that have to commute long distances pieces of their lives back they didn’t have before,” Thiessen said.

People will have the chance to multi-task on trips whether to the grocery store or a 12-hour road trip, according to Thiessen. This new Smart Center facility allows Thiessen and his team to reach their goals much faster and with more confidence.

Shape Your Future at Mizzou Engineering

During his time at Mizzou Engineering, Thiessen’s professors taught him to think outside the box and do things that haven’t been done before. His advice to the next generation of engineers is, “Start looking at how am I going to apply this knowledge in a professional position that will make an impact on the future of our society and the way that we live.”