Because Italy is more than a geographic expression..

Alessi S.P.A. US

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interview With VisLab's Professor Alberto Broggi

Since I posted a couple of times about a driverless van making a 13 000km trek to China, I decided to go to the source and interview the man (and his team) behind VisLab and the mystery machine as it were.

I contacted Professor Broggi and he was kind enough to take a few moments to answer some questions if anything to bring a human face to a technological project. Sadly, this story did not seem to get too much attention in Italy itself.

Born in Parma in Northern Italy, Alberto Broggi is professor of Computer engineering at the University of Parma. In 1998, he began to explore Artificial Intelligence at the University of Pavia as an associate professor. Professor Broggi currently resides in Parma with his wife and two daughters. You can view more about his life and accomplishments here.

For our readers, how did VisLab come to be, what has it accomplished and where is it heading?

It's a spinoff company of the University of Parma working on  driver assistance systems. We have been working in this field for over 15 years and have accomplished some results that are considered milestones in the history of our research field.

What are the implications for science and society in general for artificial vision and is Italy a leader in the field?

Artificial vision can solve a number of problems, and now it's even more common since cameras and PCs have a very low cost. Artificial vision is an international science and is common everywhere!

What do you hope to achieve with Vislab?

We'd like to transfer our technology to the vehicular market. We've already set up some cooperations with established car manufacturers, automotive suppliers, and big-vehicle manufacturers like Caterpillar.

Briefly walk us through VIAC'S remarkable 13 000km journey to China. What were the challenges, the emotions felt by your team?

Well, too wide to answer this here so I invite readers to read about your question here.

I couldn't help but think of Marco Polo (I alluded to it in a past post) when I read about VIAC, did you think of this historical angle?

Yes, if you search on google, you'll find someone defined it as a new marco-polo trip. And someone even suggested calling the vehicles Marco-Robot.

Which companies and in what industries have your products and research been requested and used?

Well, we have a number of companies that we work with: for example, Caterpillar as mentioned earlier, Rockwell Collins and Topcorn.

See full list here.

Thank you, Professor Broggi and VisLab!


  1. Interesting interview and topic. It’s consoling to see how, within a general Italian situation where not much is invested in research, there are islands of excellence.

    Bravo also to E-Talian

  2. I suppose the question becomes, why isn't Italy investing into research?

  3. Too complex a theme to be said in a few words. And I am nor an expert. But even when asked in polls Italians say to first prefer investments in health care, secondly in instruction (in a generic way), and thirdly only in scientific and technological research.

  4. It's the same thing here: Public health trumps all things. Which is short-sighted if you ask me. Aside the fact that a component of health should be in the hands of the individual and not entirely within the state, money for R&D (science etc.) provides us with the ability to discover and create things to improve our health and lives.

    If anything, it should be the opposite.