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Anirudh Chari

Anirudh Chari

Anirudh Chari

2023 Davidson Fellow
$10,000 Scholarship

Age: 17
Hometown: Schaumburg, IL

Technology: “Space-Time Conflict Spheres for Constrained Multi-Agent Motion Planning”

About Anirudh

My name is Anirudh Chari, and I’m a rising senior at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. In college, I plan to study computer science and applied mathematics. 

In the future, I intend to pursue further research in AV technology and to be at the forefront of developing safer, smarter transportation for everyone. Outside of research, I’m deeply involved with my school’s robotics team. I’m also an avid pianist with an affinity for the Romantic era; an all-time favorite is Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise. In my free time, I enjoy lifting weights, studying ancient philosophy of all kinds, and experiencing the thrill of driving.

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"I’m incredibly grateful to be recognized as a 2023 Davidson Fellow. This achievement serves as further motivation for me to conduct scientific research that advances the human condition, and to inspire others to do the same."

Project Description

Connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) are self-driving cars with the ability to communicate with each other over the air. Enabling CAVs to plan their motion cooperatively through multi-agent motion planning (MAMP) algorithms has the potential to greatly improve the safety and efficiency of transportation. However, current approaches to this problem are unable to efficiently guarantee collision-free motion in environments containing dynamic obstacles, so pedestrians and human drivers remain endangered.

My research formulates a novel, sphere-based trajectory representation for MAMP by coordinating vehicles through both space and time. This formulation is leveraged to design the first CAV coordination algorithm with theoretical safety guarantees for motion planning among dynamic obstacles, which means that humans sharing the roads with self-driving cars will be better protected.

Deeper Dive

I’ve been in love with cars since I was a little kid. As I grew older, though, I began to notice how dangerous today’s roads are. This realization motivated me to explore autonomous vehicles (AVs) as a potential solution. My love for computer algorithms and my experience with cooperative robots from high school robotics competitions sparked an idea: What if AVs could collaborate in their trajectory planning? Upon further looking into this idea, I came across the concept of connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs), where multiple AVs can communicate over the air. It turned out that cooperative planning for CAVs could be formulated as a robotics problem called multi-agent motion planning (MAMP). However, as I researched existing MAMP algorithms, I noticed a significant limitation of current work: none of these approaches could formally guarantee collision-free navigation in settings involving dynamic obstacles while maintaining efficiency. This would be a crucial trait for ensuring the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and human drivers in a future where AVs roam the streets. I knew that a more flexible trajectory representation strategy was necessary to address this shortcoming. Following some weeks of diligent work, I discovered the novel representation I sought. After months of proof-writing, implementation, and testing, I’ve finally brought this idea to life: Space-Time Conflict Spheres is the first CAV coordination algorithm with theoretical safety guarantees for motion planning among dynamic obstacles. 

While the foundational concept of my algorithm emerged during brainstorming, refining and formalizing it for implementation proved to be a long and demanding process. For example, I encountered difficulties in ensuring kinematic feasibility, realizing that velocity profiles needed to adhere to acceleration constraints for real-world applicability. This required going back to square one many times and experimenting with various approaches before settling on my current strategy. Furthermore, discussing the theoretical properties of my algorithm turned out to be a much more complex task than completing the proofs assigned in my school’s linear algebra course. Debugging was also arduous, with numerous late nights and early mornings spent searching for elusive errors, some stemming from absentminded typos made weeks prior. Although these setbacks were often frustrating, overcoming each challenge made me more knowledgeable and productive than before, making me grateful for my difficulties as I look back on my journey.

A future with safe AVs would benefit everyone, and it’s quite exciting to envision. We would finally address the 1.3 million deaths caused by road accidents yearly, and drive this number to zero. Drivers and passengers everywhere, from schoolchildren to workers, would travel in confidence and comfort. Pedestrians and cyclists would no longer have to worry about being hit by a distracted driver. Industries that rely on trucking for the transport of goods would operate more efficiently and save resources. Car ownership would likely lose popularity due to AV ride-hailing services, meaning cities would no longer be crowded by parking spaces and traffic. By leveraging communication between AVs and ensuring the safety of those endangered on today’s roads, my work brings society one step closer to making the dream of perfect transportation a reality.


What is your favorite tradition or holiday?

Holi! Known as the Hindu festival of colors, the holiday is filled with singing, dancing, and throwing colored powders at friends and family. Plus great food.

If you could magically become fluent in any language, what would it be?

Probably Arabic, so I could read One Thousand and One Nights in its original form.

What are the top three foreign countries you’d like to visit?

Japan, Greece, and Madagascar.

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In The News

Chicago – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2023 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 17-year-old Anirudh Chari of Schaumburg. Chari won a $10,000 scholarship for his project, Space-Time Conflict Spheres for Constrained Multi-Agent Motion Planning. He is one of only 21 students across the country to be recognized as a 2023 scholarship winner.

Download the full press release here