• Autonomous Systems: Policy, Law and Governance

    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.

    Syracuse University’s Autonomous Systems initiative is a new interdisciplinary effort that will advance knowledge and teaching in the field of autonomous systems by exploring new frontiers in policy, law and governance of these fast-expanding technologies.

    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 by advancing broader understanding, actionable ideas and policy innovations in the area of autonomous systems and their societal implications.

    Collaboration across campus and sectors

    The Autonomous Systems initiative will engage Syracuse faculty, students, and communities to explore the interactions among autonomous systems, individuals and society.

    The participants will work together to envision and inform the policy, legal and ethical frameworks guiding the proliferation of autonomous systems both domestically and internationally.

    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, engaging faculty across the institution’s colleges, schools, and other units to create a road map 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.

    “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.”

    Broad academic and geographic advantages

    The initiative harnesses 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.

    Syracuse University is well-positioned academically and geographically to lead this emerging field of study and research. One example of the University's strength is a 50-mile autonomous systems corridor that exists between the city of Syracuse and Utica for FAA testing and development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) management.

    Seed funding for the effort will come from dedicated, external philanthropic support, enhanced by an investment from the Office of Academic Affairs.

    If you are interested in supporting this initiative or would like to discuss funding opportunities, please contact Scott Barrett, Associate Dean, at sabarr02@maxwell.syr.edu or 315.443.9382.



  • Contact Information

  • jamie winders

    Jamie Winders
    Chair & Professor of Geography
    jwinders@maxwell.syr.edu