A head start to shaping a great career and great software
Iconic urban planning game SimCity is not just an enduring piece of pop culture entertainment - it’s also the catalyst that inspired Dr Wynita Griggs to pursue a research career in smart city design. Her joint appointment across the departments of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering and Civil Engineering offers the perfect setting in which to pursue the innovative design of safe, connected, high-tech cities; not for the virtual world, but this time in real life.
With her research focused on two complementary areas - mathematical control theory and its application to intelligent transport systems - Wynita is advancing the scientific investigation into control theory, while also using it to improve smart city tech innovations like connected and autonomous vehicles. Ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in the vicinity of these vehicles through improved communications is a key focus of her future research.
New intelligent transport systems
Wynita’s previous research into a vehicle-in-the-loop (ViL) simulation platform, developed in partnership with IBM, showed that new intelligent transport systems can be demonstrated and validated by embedding small fleets of real cars, equipped with prototype technologies, into city-wide simulations containing large numbers of simulated vehicles.
This research was undertaken while working as a research scientist at the University College Dublin. “Our team was able to demonstrate proof of concept of a range of intelligent transportation applications, which were simultaneously installed in the simulated vehicles, and in the real cars, and which all then communicated with each other through the platform,” she said. “In other words, we can demonstrate a system that is intended to be implemented city-wide by using only a handful of real cars, and thus do so in a way that is safe, cost-efficient, accessible and easy.” This achievement led to the award of Best Digest Paper at the 2nd International Conference on Connected Vehicles and Expo, held in Las Vegas.
At Monash, Wynita is currently expanding on her research through participation in projects such as the Tram Stop Constructability Innovation project, funded by Yarra Trams. In collaboration with the Monash Institute of Railway Technology, she’s working towards incorporating new smart features into tram stops across Melbourne in order to facilitate new applications such as tram stop renewable energy management and storage; and autonomous, anonymised tram stop usage data collection in the Melbourne Free Tram Zone, where usage data can currently be difficult to obtain given that tickets in the zone are not required. With more tram stop usage data available, operators will be better able to understand how tram stop patronage changes over time; better monitor the size of tram stop queue lengths with the aim of adapting tram services in real time to reduce these queues; and similarly able to monitor numbers of people left at a stop after a tram departs.
Wynita is also working on extending the capabilities of vehicle-in-the-loop simulation platforms by incorporating vehicle-to-everything (V2X) Cohda Wireless technology, for example, so that applications like autonomous intersection management can be further explored.
“It’s just so good to see the next generation of engineers and students exploring intelligent transportation systems and smart vehicles.”
Next-generation vehicles...and students!
Given the synergies with her research, Wynita is also enjoying providing support to Monash Connected Autonomous Vehicles (MCAV), an Engineering student team who work on the design and development of their own autonomous vehicle. “I love teaching and working with students, and MCAV is doing some great work,” she said. “It’s just so good to see the next generation of engineers and students exploring intelligent transportation systems and smart vehicles. I’m happy that I can be a role model for them, and an ambassador for STEM.”
Learn more about MCAV
View Wynita’s research profile