Elaine Wu is a Sensor Systems Engineer at AEye, developing sensor systems and testing self-driving technology for R&D to advance current LiDAR technology. Previously, Elaine worked at Aurora with extensive software testing for perception and classification. During her graduate studies, she specialized in vehicle systems and robotics, completing projects involving indoor vehicle navigation, robotic arm manipulation, and sensor integration with micro controllers, which ultimately inspired her career in vehicle autonomy. Elaine holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, San Diego and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Southern California.
We sat down with Elaine to learn about why she loves working on autonomous vehicles, her experience as an Experimental Researcher at the USC Biodynamics Research Lab, and what she loves most about living in the Bay Area.
Q: In honor of Valentine’s Day, what do you love most about working on autonomous vehicles?
One of the reasons why I like working on autonomous vehicles is because I am working with innovative technology. A lot of people may shrug off that sense of ambiguity – when you’re working with technology that has not yet been built or actually utilized out in the field. But I enjoy that sense of uncertainty. It means that everything can be further tuned and customized. I enjoy the process of going from proof-of-concept all the way to a completed product. To have the opportunity to have an idea and really push through to production is really exciting.
Q: As a Sensor Systems Engineer, what are you responsible for?
I’m responsible for testing the architecture and contributing to the overarching development of the sensor system. I work across all the interdisciplinary engineering teams. I verify and test different concepts, as well as execute research and development that are implemented for each team, which is then iterated across all the sensor systems. I then ensure that everything is collaborative and that the system is still cohesive. I also test all the new features, validating that everything is working as designed and that it meets AEye’s and the automotive industry’s rigorous standards.
Q: You were an Experimental Researcher at the USC Biodynamics Research Lab. Can you tell us about the work you did there?
One of my research projects was on bio-inspired navigation and localization. For this project, we were interested in identifying the path taken by underwater marine animals that do not have visual sight but are still able to navigate their environments intuitively. We were trying to identify how they navigate underwater during instances with “disturbances” and classify them. These “disturbances” are usually from an object nearby or from other moving collateral objects, and they usually create trails, which we call “eddies,” or underwater vortices. They are easily identifiable because when you have an object that goes through the water, it creates contrasting eddies – or vortices – and with the relative speed and dissipation, you can then identify the trajectory of its path.
For this project, we had an underwater tank with floating particles illuminated with a laser sheet along with a few miniature pressure sensors to simulate how these disturbances are classified underwater. After post processing with a high speed camera, we identified some key characteristics of these disturbances and then interpolated how these marine animals were able to navigate through them.
Q: You’re a San Francisco native! What do you love most about the Bay Area?
I enjoy the diversity and all the different cultural aspects of the Bay Area. I think that people in the Bay Area are very colorful in the sense that not many are narrow minded and everyone’s very open to all beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, and gender orientation and identification across the spectrum. I like that people here generally don’t have prejudices against you and it’s nice to be accepted wherever you traverse in the city.