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Once a physics teacher in the Navy, now a ‘car guy’ at Stanford

John Alsterda with the X1, an autonomous experimental car that was designed and built by Stanford PhD students.
Farrin Abbott
Jan 16 2020

John Alsterda, a doctoral student who is developing a new emergency avoidance controller for self-driving cars, is one of 91 military service veterans studying at Stanford.  As John Alsterda neared the end of his assignment at the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Power School in South Carolina, he decided it was time to pursue his dream of earning a doctorate.  Initially, he planned to study nuclear engineering.  But Alsterda changed course after watching a self-driving coupe named Shelley zip around a racetrack at 120 mph in a video published by the Dynamic Design Lab, which is part of the Mechanical Engineering Department in Stanford’s School of Engineering.