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Syracuse University Announces New Campuswide Initiative to Support Teaching, Research in Policy and Governance of Autonomous Systems

Syracuse, NY, Jan. 28, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new interdisciplinary effort at Syracuse University will advance knowledge and teaching in the field of autonomous systems, exploring new frontiers in policy, law and governance of these fast-expanding technologies.


From self-driving cars to drone delivery systems, from robotic underwater vessels to smart-home technologies, autonomous systems are transforming our world—posing complex social, ethical and legal questions that demand interdisciplinary, multi-faceted research. According to industry experts, the technology of autonomous systems has advanced far beyond the existing policy and legal frameworks at almost every level of government. The University’s initiative is designed to help fill this gap, advancing broader understanding, actionable ideas and policy innovations in the area of autonomous systems and their societal implications.

“This is an exemplary initiative that captures the intent and spirit of the Academic Strategic Plan, harnessing Syracuse University’s expertise across colleges and disciplines. It leverages the University’s expertise in public policy, law and ethics and combines it with our substantial experience in the science and engineering behind innovative autonomous systems to fill a critical need in society,” says Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Michele Wheatly. Seed funding for the effort will come from dedicated, external philanthropic support, enhanced by an investment from the Office of Academic Affairs.

The initiative will engage faculty and students across campus to explore the interactions between autonomous systems, individuals and society. Areas of potential collaboration include the following:

  • public policy and social science experts at the Maxwell School;
  • legal scholars in the College of Law;
  • ethical and philosophical expertise in the humanities from the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • industry development and dynamics in the Whitman School and the School of Information Studies;
  • media relevance in the Newhouse School;
  • basic and applied research in the Colleges of Engineering and Computer Science and the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • design applications in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Architecture;
  • new educational imperatives and inclusion possibilities in the School of Education; and
  • health and mobility implications of these new technologies in the Falk College.

Professor Jamie Winders, chair of the geography department in the Maxwell School, will lead the initiative. “Professor Winders is an accomplished researcher and teacher with an outstanding reputation on campus for facilitating broad engagement across disciplines,” says Maxwell School Dean David M. Van Slyke.

Vice President for Research John Liu notes that the initiative will be supported by key signature and cluster hires: “The initiative encourages collaboration between disciplines that can find new synergies, strengthening our research enterprise and providing relevant education and research opportunities for our students.”

This initiative will create significant opportunities for Syracuse faculty, students and communities to come together to envision and help shape the policy, legal and ethical frameworks guiding the proliferation of autonomous systems both domestically and internationally. Winders will engage faculty across the institution’s colleges, schools and other units to create a roadmap for this initiative and to identify additional research and teaching strengths in autonomous systems at the University. “This initiative will give our students incredible exposure to and expertise in a rapidly growing field and allow us as faculty to reach across disciplinary lines in this important field,” Winders says. It will culminate in a spring symposium composed of University faculty and outside experts on autonomous systems.

Syracuse University is well-positioned academically and geographically to lead this emerging field of study and research. A 50-mile autonomous systems corridor exists between the city of Syracuse and Utica for FAA testing and development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) management. Also, the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance—a coalition of more than 200 private and public entities and academic institutions working together to operate and oversee Unmanned Aircraft System testing—is headquartered in Syracuse.

About Syracuse University

Syracuse University is a private, international research university with distinctive academics, diversely unique offerings and an undeniable spirit. Located in the geographic heart of New York state, with a global footprint and nearly 150 years of history, Syracuse University offers a quintessential college experience, as well as innovative online learning environments. The scope of Syracuse University is a testament to its strengths. At Syracuse University, we offer a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors offered through 13 schools and colleges and 18 online degree programs. We have more than 15,000 undergraduates and 7,500 graduate students, more than a quarter of a million alumni in 160 countries and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries. For more information, please visit

Tonya R Charles
Syracuse University