Dan Work is a Chancellor Faculty Fellow and professor in civil and environmental engineering, computer science, and the Institute for Software Integrated Systems at Vanderbilt University. He has held research appointments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2010-17), Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (2015, 2020), Microsoft Research Redmond (2009), and Nokia Research Center Palo Alto (2007-09). Dr. Work pioneered methods for monitoring and controlling road traffic using vehicles, rather than fixed infrastructure, to sense and control road congestion. In 2015 he and his collaborators were the first to experimentally demonstrate that "phantom" traffic jams, which seemingly occur without an obvious cause but are due to human driving behavior, can be eliminated via control of a small fraction of automated vehicles in the flow. Work is a recognized transportation expert whose work has appeared in media outlets including ABC's Good Morning America, Reuters, Wired, and MIT Technology Review. Dr. Work received a 2018 Gilbreth Lectureship from the National Academy of Engineering and a 2014 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. He earned a BS from Ohio State in 2006, and an MS (2007) and Ph.D. (2010) from UC Berkeley, all in civil and environmental engineering.

Media Appearances

  • Researchers zero in on Tennessee's I-24 to study traffic jams

    The area, dubbed I-24 MOTION, will give researchers unprecedented insight into traffic and could steer different efforts to make our commutes a little less painful. "This thing is like an MRI, when the rest of the world is looking at traffic with an X-ray," Vanderbilt engineer Dan Work tells Axios.

    December 22nd, 2022

  • Researchers: AI in connected cars eased rush hour congestion

    Human drivers just don’t do a good job of navigating dense traffic conditions, but an experiment using artificial intelligence in Nashville last week means help could be on the way. In the experiment, specially equipped cars were able to ease rush hour congestion on Interstate-24, researcher Daniel Work said on Tuesday. In addition to lessening driver frustration, Work said less stop-and-go driving means fuel savings and, by extension, less pollution.

    November 23rd, 2022

  • Adaptive cruise control technology could ease phantom traffic jams, Vanderbilt study finds

    Results from a Vanderbilt University-led study conducted on I-24 show a new kind of car technology, called adaptive cruise control that could help ease traffic jams that seem to come out of nowhere, called phantom traffic. “The extremely frustrating traffic jams that motorists are very familiar with, you’re stopped without a good reason. You’re stopped because of the way you and I drive,” Dan Work, a Vanderbilt University civil and environmental engineering professor said.

    November 23rd, 2022

  • 'An MRI for traffic:' Open road testing now live on I-24

    “We can't necessarily eliminate traffic congestion, but what we're trying to do is make it more reliable,” said Dan Work, engineer and computer science professor at Vanderbilt University. Proving it on a real interstate is the ultimate test. That’s where the I-24 Motion testbed comes in.

    November 17th, 2022

  • ‘Vehicles are getting smarter’: Vanderbilt, TDOT researching automated vehicle technology on I-24

    “The reason we want to do that is that vehicles are getting smarter,” said Dan Work, Vanderbilt University Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I-24 is a highly congested freeway. There are 150,000 vehicles a day that pass through it and it’s a really nice test case because if automated vehicle technology can help tame and make the traffic on I-24 a little bit smoother, and a little bit more efficient, then that technology can be deployed around the world making commuters everywhere a little bit easier off.”

    September 13th, 2021

  • Vanderbilt contributes to smart interstate infrastructure venture

    “I-24 MOTION allows us to understand how automated vehicles interact with non-automated ones so that we can design them to be more efficient at helping smooth traffic flow,” said Dan Work, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt. “In our research, we are helping to design better vehicle automation features that can help improve overall traffic flow.”

    September 13th, 2021

  • TDOT, Vanderbilt studying self-driving cars on I-24

    "Human drivers are actually less consistent than autonomous vehicles are today," said Dan Work, engineer and researcher for Vanderbilt University. "So, we can actually pick up the nuances of the way that you or I drive that are distinct from the way automated vehicles drive."

    August 3rd, 2021

  • Scooters are here to stay in Nashville. We have to make it work.

    Technology-enabled disrupters have descended on Nashville. From Uber to Airbnb to Bird, our students are some of the earliest adopters. These technologies have had a positive impact on the lives of our students, faculty and their families. Now e-scooters are sparking heated debate here in Nashville. While it is easy to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to these change agents – and we agree more can be done on enforcing safety measures – we must acknowledge that disruption can bring about positive change.

    June 24th, 2019

  • How level-1 AVs may reduce phantom traffic jams

    Phantom traffic jams — the ones that appear to have no obvious cause — result from human driving behavior. Adaptive cruise control replaces some of these jam-inducing behaviors with algorithms, using sensors to detect the vehicle ahead and adjust cruise speed accordingly. When designed correctly, level-1 AVs may help prevent such traffic patterns from developing.

    October 5th, 2018

  • Ford says new tech could prevent 'phantom' traffic jams

    "We had experimented on this in theory, and to see it in practice was thrilling for us," said Vanderbilt engineering professor Dan Work. "Humans, when we're not paying attention, we make these traffic jams worse. These adaptive cruise control systems, we showed, can actually out-perform the human drivers."

    June 27th, 2018


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

M.S., University of California, Berkeley

B.S, The Ohio State University


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