Letter from the Directors, IAA

Dear Friends,
Our team at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy has made great progress in our first year as we work to advance A.I.-enabled, autonomous systems to be trustworthy contributors to our communities and society at large.  As these technologies become pervasive in our smart devices, cars, homes, offices and cities, we aim to assure their safety and build public trust.

These technologies promise to transform our lives for the better, but they also carry risks in unintended consequences and vulnerability to attack, if we don’t take action.  Our goal is to assure the development of smart, autonomous machines and systems, and to ensure that their integration in society is beneficial, safe, secure, reliable, and ethical.

Dr. Anton Dahbura

Tony Dahbura

Ours is an audacious goal, but Johns Hopkins University is deeply committed to our vision, standing up the Institute as a joint effort between our Applied Physics Laboratory and the Whiting School of Engineering, committing $30 million in funding, and uniting dozens of researchers from schools and divisions across the university.  We are also charged with forging collaborations with partners across the public and private sectors.

Dr. Cara E. LaPointe

Cara LaPointe

We’re working to advance assured autonomy from a holistic perspective, across three pillars: the technology itself, the ecosystem into which it is embedded, and the policy and governance that regulates it.  A.I. is a reflection of society, and often it results in negative impacts on vulnerable and marginalized sections of our society.  Our focus is ensuring the technology is deployed beneficially and ethically.

In our first year, we are proud to have launched a number of major initiatives: laying the groundwork for strategic partnerships across sectors, convening top researchers and funding their research to create new tools and methodologies, developing a roadmap, and advancing national thought leadership.

Last spring, the Institute seed-funded 10 transformative projects for Johns Hopkins researchers to propel advancements in the field.  The two-year research projects promise to transform the industry and society, both collectively and individually, by actions such as:

  • Developing a proactive policy framework for autonomous vehicles
  • Developing software to ensure safe traffic management of drones in national airspace
  • Assuring the safe, predictable operation of mobile robots and vehicles in offices, hospitals, and other populated spaces
  • Assuring privacy and reducing bias in AI technology
  • Assuring the safety of AI-enabled surgical systems
  • Strengthening AI systems against cyberattacks and safeguarding systems for critical infrastructure, transportation, medicine, smart cities, national security, defense, and more

Our research effort is led by the Institute’s research director, David Silberberg, and we plan to publish regular updates on our progress.

Moving forward, we are excited by the promise of growth and stability for the Institute this year.  We plan to name a new executive director to lead the organization, and we will also open a headquarters location.  Our new home will be in Baltimore’s historic Stieff Silver complex, the 1.2-acre former silver factory complex on the National Register of Historic Places, now owned by the Whiting School of Engineering.

Also this year, the IAA will sponsor Flagship Projects as testbed demonstrations of tools and methodologies, to test research and development projects for their effectiveness in applied, real world settings.  We anticipate conducting multiple demonstrations in core domains including autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and healthcare.

We invite you to browse our website for more information, and hope that you will join us as we work to advance our critical mission.

Tony Dahbura and Cara LaPointe
Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
Email: [email protected]