Congratulations to our Fall 2023 ITS-Davis Dissertation Grant Awardees!

Congratulations to our ITS-Davis dissertation grant awardees! These four awardees are conducting research on autonomous vehicle behavior, corridor electric vehicle fast charging stations, vehicle miles traveled reduction planning, and strategies for community and infrastructure resilience. 

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Di Chen | Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Davis

ITS-Davis Dissertation Award

Di Chen is studying the interaction between autonomous vehicles (AVs) and human-driven vehicles (HVs) in mixed traffic. Her research proposes a game theory-guided, AI-driven framework for AV behavior design, with the aim of ensuring benefits to both individual drivers and the overall transportation system.

The rise of AVs has led to mixed traffic of both autonomous and human-driven vehicles. Since AVs can exhibit different behavior than HVs, it is important to understand how each interacts with the other, and how those interactions can be leveraged to ensure equity between both types of vehicles. In addition, the spatial distribution of each type of vehicle on road can be optimized to contribute to emissions reductions. Di’s research contributes to a better understanding of these factors by developing a game theory-guided and deep reinforcement learning-based framework for designing AV behavior. This framework can be used to train AVs to seek cooperation in the mixed traffic system. It does so by incentivizing each AV to pursue spatial separation with the rewards being the vehicle’s own utility, positive externalities on the rest of traffic, and cooperation surplus, a concept developed in Di’s research. Her dissertation shows how a changing transportation system can achieve equitable benefits for all vehicles and societal benefits from emissions reductions.

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Tisura Gamage | Transportation Technology and Policy, UC Davis

ITS-Davis Dissertation Award

In his dissertation, Tisura Gamage is exploring the status of current corridor fast charging stations installed to support electric vehicles in California. By defining reliability metrics and analyzing how reliable existing stations are, Tisura will show how policymakers and charging operators can improve reliability of the charging network to facilitate the growth of electric vehicles. Tisura will also study location specific information and reliability considerations for drivers when charging and traveling.  

Tisura’s research examines three central questions: 1) what are the challenges of installing corridor fast chargers; 2) what is the reliability of existing chargers; and 3) where are fast chargers most needed to be reliable?  To answer these questions, Tisura’s dissertation involves understanding the costs of building chargers through data collection and interviews with engineers. Usage data of those chargers (e.g., when a driver attempted to use the charger and whether they succeeded) sheds light on how reliable California’s charging infrastructure actually is. Finally, through geolocating corridor chargers and modeling charging demand, Tisura’s research will show the minimum reliability needed to ensure smooth traveling. His dissertation will use these insights to propose strategies for policymakers and operators to achieve better reliability that is commensurate with consumer preferences and the growth of the electric vehicle market.

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Rey Hosseinzade | Transportation Technology and Policy, UC Davis

ITS-Davis Dissertation Award

Rey is studying the implications of policies, like Senate Bill 743, that mandate the consideration of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in land use development and VMT reduction. A successful policy regarding VMT reduction across the state will help California achieve its broader emissions reduction goals via changes in land use and transportation networks. Rey is looking at three aspects of the state’s VMT reduction goals to identify challenges, nuances, and policy impacts, including changes in land use development patterns and equity considerations.

Rey’s dissertation incorporates three data collection methods: surveys, interviews, and case studies. She plans to survey local officials and planners to learn what factors impacted their decision toward achieving VMT reduction goals. Understanding which factors drive officials to set higher or lower VMT reduction goals will help the state align the reduction strategies of different local governments and push them to more progressive reduction goals. Rey will also interview planners to find how important equity is to them, given that there are potential trade-offs between equity and efficiency in VMT mitigation programs. These interviews will be conducted through the lens of off-site VMT mitigation programs like VMT banks and VMT exchanges. Beyond the details of how planners are behaving to achieve SB743 and other VMT reduction goals, Rey’s dissertation also seeks to understand the impacts of those policies on land use. How exactly has focusing on VMT changed land use projects? Her case studies of land use projects in five local jurisdictions will help answer that question.

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Daniel Rivera-Royero | Transportation Technology and Policy, UC Davis

ITS-Davis Dissertation Award

For his dissertation, Daniel is studying a mixed set of strategies to enhance community and transportation infrastructure resilience against multiple hazards.

Daniel’s research focuses on three main thrusts. The first thrust focuses on answering how to identify the areas and directions with the highest risk concentration within a road network to prioritize mitigation, preparedness, and disaster response planning, and more importantly, how to quantify the effect of network resilience on community resilience against multiple hazards. The second thrust considers how to estimate efficiently the minimal evacuation time for multiple locations within a reasonable timeframe to prioritize the locations with the highest vulnerabilities and exposure to natural hazards. The third thrust involves analyzing how to optimize evacuation performance by integrating alternative disaster management strategies during a short- or no-notice wildfire. Through answering these questions, Daniel hopes to identify the role of the transportation road network in the safety and sustainability of the population of high-priority communities.

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