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Dan Work - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Dan Work

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering | Vanderbilt University


Expert in self-driving cars and traffic management.



Dan Work is a Chancellor Faculty Fellow and professor in civil and environmental engineering, computer science, and the Institute for Software Integrated Systems at Vanderbilt University. He has held research appointments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2010-17), Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (2015, 2020), Microsoft Research Redmond (2009), and Nokia Research Center Palo Alto (2007-09).

Dr. Work pioneered methods for monitoring and controlling road traffic using vehicles, rather than fixed infrastructure, to sense and control road congestion. In 2015 he and his collaborators were the first to experimentally demonstrate that "phantom" traffic jams, which seemingly occur without an obvious cause but are due to human driving behavior, can be eliminated via control of a small fraction of automated vehicles in the flow. Work is a recognized transportation expert whose work has appeared in media outlets including ABC's Good Morning America, Reuters, Wired, and MIT Technology Review.

Dr. Work received a 2018 Gilbreth Lectureship from the National Academy of Engineering and a 2014 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. He earned a BS from Ohio State in 2006, and an MS (2007) and Ph.D. (2010) from UC Berkeley, all in civil and environmental engineering.

Areas of Expertise (11)

Adaptive Cruise Control


Inverse Modeling

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Traffic Estimation and Control

Transportation Cyber Physical Systems

Self-Driving Cars

Transportation Data Analysis

Mathematical Models of Traffic

Mobile Sensing

Cruise Control

Accomplishments (3)

2018 Pioneers

Connected World

NAE Gilbreth Lecturer

National Academy of Engineering, 2018

NAE China US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium Speaker

National Academy of Engineering, 2017

Education (3)

University of California, Berkeley: Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering

University of California, Berkeley: M.S., Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Ohio State University: B.S, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Selected Media Appearances (10)

Researchers zero in on Tennessee's I-24 to study traffic jams

Axios  online


The area, dubbed I-24 MOTION, will give researchers unprecedented insight into traffic and could steer different efforts to make our commutes a little less painful. "This thing is like an MRI, when the rest of the world is looking at traffic with an X-ray," Vanderbilt engineer Dan Work tells Axios.

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Researchers: AI in connected cars eased rush hour congestion

Associated Press  online


Human drivers just don’t do a good job of navigating dense traffic conditions, but an experiment using artificial intelligence in Nashville last week means help could be on the way. In the experiment, specially equipped cars were able to ease rush hour congestion on Interstate-24, researcher Daniel Work said on Tuesday. In addition to lessening driver frustration, Work said less stop-and-go driving means fuel savings and, by extension, less pollution.

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Adaptive cruise control technology could ease phantom traffic jams, Vanderbilt study finds

WKRN  tv


Results from a Vanderbilt University-led study conducted on I-24 show a new kind of car technology, called adaptive cruise control that could help ease traffic jams that seem to come out of nowhere, called phantom traffic. “The extremely frustrating traffic jams that motorists are very familiar with, you’re stopped without a good reason. You’re stopped because of the way you and I drive,” Dan Work, a Vanderbilt University civil and environmental engineering professor said.

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'An MRI for traffic:' Open road testing now live on I-24

NewsChannel 5  tv


“We can't necessarily eliminate traffic congestion, but what we're trying to do is make it more reliable,” said Dan Work, engineer and computer science professor at Vanderbilt University. Proving it on a real interstate is the ultimate test. That’s where the I-24 Motion testbed comes in.

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‘Vehicles are getting smarter’: Vanderbilt, TDOT researching automated vehicle technology on I-24

WKRN  tv


“The reason we want to do that is that vehicles are getting smarter,” said Dan Work, Vanderbilt University Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I-24 is a highly congested freeway. There are 150,000 vehicles a day that pass through it and it’s a really nice test case because if automated vehicle technology can help tame and make the traffic on I-24 a little bit smoother, and a little bit more efficient, then that technology can be deployed around the world making commuters everywhere a little bit easier off.”

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Vanderbilt contributes to smart interstate infrastructure venture

Nashville Post  online


“I-24 MOTION allows us to understand how automated vehicles interact with non-automated ones so that we can design them to be more efficient at helping smooth traffic flow,” said Dan Work, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt. “In our research, we are helping to design better vehicle automation features that can help improve overall traffic flow.”

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TDOT, Vanderbilt studying self-driving cars on I-24

NewsChannel 5  tv


"Human drivers are actually less consistent than autonomous vehicles are today," said Dan Work, engineer and researcher for Vanderbilt University. "So, we can actually pick up the nuances of the way that you or I drive that are distinct from the way automated vehicles drive."

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Scooters are here to stay in Nashville. We have to make it work.

The Tennessean  online


Technology-enabled disrupters have descended on Nashville. From Uber to Airbnb to Bird, our students are some of the earliest adopters. These technologies have had a positive impact on the lives of our students, faculty and their families. Now e-scooters are sparking heated debate here in Nashville. While it is easy to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to these change agents – and we agree more can be done on enforcing safety measures – we must acknowledge that disruption can bring about positive change.

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How level-1 AVs may reduce phantom traffic jams

Axios  online


Phantom traffic jams — the ones that appear to have no obvious cause — result from human driving behavior. Adaptive cruise control replaces some of these jam-inducing behaviors with algorithms, using sensors to detect the vehicle ahead and adjust cruise speed accordingly. When designed correctly, level-1 AVs may help prevent such traffic patterns from developing.

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Ford says new tech could prevent 'phantom' traffic jams

Good Morning America  tv


"We had experimented on this in theory, and to see it in practice was thrilling for us," said Vanderbilt engineering professor Dan Work. "Humans, when we're not paying attention, we make these traffic jams worse. These adaptive cruise control systems, we showed, can actually out-perform the human drivers."

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Selected Articles (1)

Evaluation of traffic data obtained via GPS-enabled mobile phones: The Mobile Century field experiment


Daniel Work, Juan C. Herrera, Ryan Heering ...


2010 "The growing need of the driving public for accurate traffic information has spurred the deployment of large scale dedicated monitoring infrastructure systems, which mainly consist in the use of inductive loop detectors and video cameras. On-board electronic devices have been proposed as an alternative traffic sensing infrastructure, as they usually provide a cost-effective way to collect traffic data, leveraging existing communication infrastructure such as the cellular phone network.

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