Max Donath was the founding director of the Roadway Safety Institute and is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Donath’s efforts have been directed towards keeping the driver in the loop, using sensing technologies, control systems, and improved human-machine interfaces to reduce driver error and thus prevent crashes before they happen.
The focus of his research can be grouped into four areas:
- Novel human-machine interface design for providing improved situation awareness for the driver
- Driver assist systems for snowplows operating in white-out conditions
- Autonomous navigation and wayfinding under winter conditions, focused on snow-covered sidewalks
- Developing experimental approaches to educating engineers about the design, control, and programming of robots
He has worked on high-accuracy vehicle position sensing, radar, and lidar sensing, as well as visual, tactile, and haptic sensing and perception—all related to driving. For example, he and a team of researchers developed a driving assist system for snowplow operators that allows them to clear the roads even under white-out conditions. Based on high-accuracy DGPS, a tactile seat, and a conformal HUD, snowplows with this technology have been operating in Alaska in Thompson Pass since 2004 without mishap. More recently this system has been adapted for bus drivers operating in narrow bus-only-shoulder lanes.
Donath received a B. Eng. in mechanical engineering from McGill University and went on to earn S.M. and Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the University of Minnesota in 1978.