CMU’s Head of Autonomy Raj Rajkumar is Recklessly Undereducated

Michael DeKort
4 min readMay 19, 2021

In a congressional house hearing yesterday CMU’s Raj Rajkumar once again misled the public regarding the viability of the current industry approach to creating driverless vehicles. To make matters worse he misled congress. He stated you cannot use simulation for most of the development and testing. This is a myth. One that is quite easy to understand if you can separate yourself from the echo chamber, apply common sense and do a skosh of due diligence on the simulation technology used by the aerospace industry. (Something the USDOT VOICES group has done. This small courageous group gets it and is screaming in the NHTSA wilderness to help.)

While the real-world is clearly more “real” than simulation can be, the real issue is time, money and perfect vs necessary simulation fidelity.

It is a myth that public shadow and safety driving can create a legitimate autonomous vehicle. And the lives the process takes are necessary and for the greater good. It is impossible to drive the trillion miles or spend $300B to stumble and restumble on all the scenarios necessary to complete the effort. The process also harms people for no reason. The first safety issue is handover. The time to regain proper situational awareness and do the right thing, especially in time critical scenarios. cannot be provided. Another dangerous area is learning accident scenarios. AV makers will have to run thousands of accident scenarios thousands of times to accomplish this. That will cause thousands of injuries and deaths. The next issues is the use of gaming based simulation technology which has too many technical limitations to facilitate the creation of a legitimate real-world digital twin. The solution is to use DoD simulation technology and shift most of the autonomous system development and testing over to it. (More in my articles below. Including my using Elon’s industry day example of why he believes you need to use the real world to show that’s ridiculous.)

I tried to talk to Raj Rajkumar years ago about this. I offered to show him the simulation technology I referred to. He refused to participate. Said differently, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering and co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Vehicular Information Technology Collaborative Research Lab at CMU refused to be educated and to help educate others to save lives and the industry. He went on to say, “we agree to disagree”. That of course is nonsense, intellectually dishonest and negligent, especially for an industry “thought leader”. Rajkumar is putting his ego and stature above his obligation to the university, the industry and most importantly, the public. Now having said this, like his Pittsburgh compatriot, “safety” expert Phil Koopman, Rajkumar is an ethical sail. Meaning, he modifies his stance based on prevailing winds. When the first child or family is killed needlessly listen for the sail to make the final snap to the opposite tac. Damn shame he can’t manage the ethical fortitude to lead vs follow here.

Link to the hearing — Raj Rajkumar’s statement on simulation is at 1:54:00

More details on my POV here

The Autonomous Vehicle Industry can be Saved by doing the Opposite of what is being done now


USDOT introduces VOICES Proof of Concept for Autonomous Vehicle Industry-A Paradigm Shift?


SAE Autonomous Vehicle Engineering Magazine — Simulation’s Next Generation (featuring Dactle)


Using the Real World is better than Proper Simulation for AV Development — NONSENSE


Safety “Experts” calling for Driverless Safety Standards is a Hypocritical Reckless Joke


My name is Michael DeKort — I am a former system engineer, engineering, and program manager for Lockheed Martin. I worked in aircraft simulation, the software engineering manager for all of NORAD, the Aegis Weapon System, and on C4ISR for DHS.

Industry Participation — Air and Ground

- Founder SAE On-Road Autonomous Driving Simulation Task Force

- Member SAE ORAD Verification and Validation Task Force

- Member UNECE WP.29 SG2 Virtual Testing

- Stakeholder USDOT VOICES (Virtual Open Innovation Collaborative Environment for Safety)

- Member SAE G-34 / EUROCAE WG-114 Artificial Intelligence in Aviation

- Member CIVATAglobal — Civic Air Transport Association

- Stakeholder for UL4600 — Creating AV Safety Guidelines

- Member of the IEEE Artificial Intelligence & Autonomous Systems Policy Committee

- Presented the IEEE Barus Ethics Award for Post 9/11 DoD/DHS Whistleblowing Efforts



Michael DeKort

Non-Tribal Truth Seeker-IEEE Barus Ethics Award/9–11 Whistleblower-Aerospace/DoD Systems Engineer/Member SAE Autonomy and eVTOL development V&V & Simulation