NEWS - 2021/05/19

“We should not forget the lesson that this pandemic is teaching us: to reduce the use of private vehicles”

Elisa Sayrol, Ph.D. holder in Telecommunications Engineering, is a researcher specializing in image and video processing.  She is an associate professor at the UPC Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSETB), where she was the director for six years. Currently, she coordinates the master’s degree in Urban Mobility. Since 2017, she has formed part of the academic management of CARNET, the mobility hub promoted by the UPC, SEAT, and Volkswagen.

She arrived at CARNET in 2017 thanks to the academic director of the center, Lluís Jofre. Her past experience included several years of intensive university management at the UPC, where she was director of the Barcelona School of Telecommunications and Vice-Rector for Institutional Relations.

Elisa believes that telecommunications are very important in urban mobility so that vehicles can connect with the other elements in the system. However, her specialization in image processing, a line of work that converges with the work of computer engineers in topics of computer vision. And all of this forms a considerable part of the development of autonomous vehicles.

Focused on the role that image processing technologies play in mobility, she assures that, even in cases in which driving is not fully autonomous, vehicles have utilities that detect what is happening around them using detection and communication sensors: “A car being able to “see” what is happening around it improves safety and driving decision-making”. In addition, communicating the information that it captures about other vehicles and infrastructure is very important. In fact, in the master’s degree in Automotive Engineering at the UPC, a specialization has been created in Connected Vehicle and Driver Assistance that includes subjects on ICT applied to automotive engineering.

She and her team are working in the field of urban mobility from the perspective of scooters. This project has been approached as a test of concept, and now they are proposing a project for EIT Urban Mobility to design a prototype that brings us closer to generating a product. In addition, they currently count on several students who are researching multi-task algorithms, which enable us to use the same neural network for various functions.

Regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, she says that micromobility and shared vehicles are benefitting from it. “Users are opting for individual, cheap, environmentally friendly means of transport”. In contrast, she concludes that the use of public transport is dropping and the use of individual vehicles is increasing. “We should not forget the lesson that this pandemic is teaching us: to reduce the use of private vehicles.”

Elisa also coordinates the UPC master’s degree in Urban Mobility. It was created in response to their participation in the EIT Urban Mobility consortium. The master’s degree is based on another UPC program, but this new one focuses particularly on boosting innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, 25% of the credits of this multidisciplinary programme (which includes topics from transportation to logistics, data management or sensors and human-machine interaction) are for subjects from this area. This is an international master, taught in English and with most students coming from other countries around the globe. “My feeling is that interest in training and research in mobility topics is increasing”.

To conclude, she wants to send an empowering message for women in the mobility sector, aiming to realize that many good engineers are female too: “CARNET is a good example of this, because Monika Bachofner and Laia Pagès were adventurous to lead an initiative like this from its outset”. CARNET and UPC  participate in an EIT Urban Mobility financed project, Women in Urban Mobility (WUM), where they address the perspective of gender in mobility.