Three Engineers Who’ve Made Transportation and Power Systems Safer Receive IEEE Awards

They’ve contributed to autonomous vehicles, electrical standards, and collision-avoidance protocols for aircraft

16 May 2017

A trio of researchers who have worked to make autonomous vehicles, industrial power systems, and aircraft safer and more reliable are being honored with some of IEEE’s top awards. IEEE Life Senior Member Erling Hesla and Fellow Claire J. Tomlin will receive IEEE Technical Field Awards, and Fellow Alberto Broggi will receive an IEEE Medal. Medals will be presented on 25 May during the IEEE Honors Ceremony, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

Broggi is receiving the IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies. He is being cited for “leadership in vehicular environmental perception and for setting worldwide milestones in safe and reliable intelligent vehicles.”

Broggi is general manager at VisLab, a computer-vision and autonomous-vehicle research company in Parma, Italy, that recently merged with Ambarella, an image-processing firm in Santa Clara, Calif. He is also a professor of computer engineering at the University of Parma.

He has developed low-cost machine-vision sensors for vehicle perception to replace the more costly laser-based sensors. His research has played an integral part in the development and advancement of intelligent vehicles.

Broggi led the MilleMiglia in Automatico project in 1998 to test an autonomous vehicle that was built with off-the-shelf components by driving it more than 2,000 kilometers through city streets. Lessons learned from that project led him to develop computer-vision systems that were installed on the TerraMax driverless truck, which was built for the U.S. military by the Oshkosh defense company, in Wisconsin.

In 2013 he tested VisLab’s BRAiVE autonomous vehicle in downtown Parma. For 20 minutes, the vehicle navigated two-way narrow rural roads, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, and rotaries in the middle of the day with no human intervention and no one in the driver’s seat.


Hesla is receiving the IEEE Richard Harold Kaufmann Award for “leadership in establishing the fundamentals for the protection and safe operation of industrial power systems.” He owns Hesla and Associates, an engineering consulting firm in Camano Island, Wash.

With a career dedicated to developing practical approaches to improving electrical safety, he has pioneered the safe switching and clearing of power systems. He also developed the first planning and control software to help operators perform the switching and clearing of complex industrial power distribution systems.

Hesla led the creation of IEEE 902-1998 Guide for Maintenance, Operation, and Safety of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems, which was the first IEEE standard to provide guidance for safe workplace practices regarding industrial electrical systems. He has passed on his knowledge of applying safe switching procedures to other engineers through his consulting practice, publications, and lectures. The Kaufmann award is being presented 10 May at the IEEE Industrial and Commercial Power Systems Technical Conference in Niagara Falls, Ont., Canada.


Tomlin is receiving the IEEE Transportation Technologies Award “for contributions to air transportation systems, focusing on collision-avoidance protocol design and avionics safety verification.” She is chair of the engineering department at the University of California, Berkeley.

She has applied her expertise in control systems to make air transportation systems safer. Her work has been tested in simulation, on unmanned aerial vehicle test flights, and on commercial airplanes. She also built one of the first quadrotor testbeds for experimentation with the control protocols.

She is currently working on NextGen, Berkeley’s next-generation system for more efficient air traffic control. The Transportation Technologies Award is being presented 14 December at the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control in Melbourne, Australia.

Read about other innovators who received IEEE Medals, Recognitions, and Technical Field Awards this year, and find out how to nominate a colleague for one of IEEE’s top honors.

Learn More