Student Spotlight: Cem Sazara Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Old Dominion University

The Transportation Research Institute (TRI) at Old Dominion University (ODU) addresses critical issues in surface transportation systems. Bringing research expertise around traffic operations, intelligent transportation systems, travel demand modeling and simulation, connected vehicles, and choice modeling, TRI offers young researchers and graduate students the opportunity to work at the leading edge of innovative congestion, safety and environmental traffic solutions.

Currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization at ODU, Cem Sazara is a member of the TRI where his research interests include autonomous vehicles, LIDAR technology and data analysis. He views traffic and congestion issues as constantly evolving, especially as increasing numbers of vehicles and commuters use transportation systems originally built for much smaller volumes of traffic. He is interested in how real-time mobile data, collected from sensors and autonomous vehicles, holds the promise of “hidden nuggets of important traffic information” not unlocked by existing stationary cameras or sensors.

Sazara is currently completing a project using LIDAR (light detection and ranging) remote sensing technology and autonomous vehicles to explore distance measurement and obstacle detection. LIDAR produces point clouds that have important information about the surrounding environment. Sazara and his research partners collected trajectory data on a two lane urban road using a Velodyne VLP-16 LIDAR. Due to the dynamic nature of data collection and limited range of the sensor, some of these trajectories had missing points or gaps. The project proposed a novel method for recovery of missing vehicle trajectory data points using microscopic traffic flow models. The final manuscript entitled, Offline Reconstruction of Missing Vehicle Trajectory Data from 3D LIDAR, is in preparation and will be presented this June at the 2017 IEEE Intelligent Vehicles Symposium in Redondo Beach, CA.

Next, Sazara will turn his attention to a MATS UTC-funded project estimating road inundation levels due to recurrent flooding. The project will develop a set of tools and analytical capabilities to estimate water inundations due to flooding using data primarily from video surveillance cameras.

Dr. Mecit Cetin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the TRI, is Sazara’s advisor. “Cem not only has excellent analytical skills and a curious mind, but also great work ethics,” said Cetin. Sazara will look to leverage these skills as he pursues a research career with either a private company or research institute in the transportation field.

“Our ability to collect data in real-time is a huge leap forward in advancing our capacity to develop innovative solutions based in true driving behaviors and congestion issues,” Sazara stated. “The Hampton Roads region has great opportunities to collaborate with government agencies and other research groups as well as interesting infrastructure such as coastal roadways, bridges and tunnels. It’s exciting to think that this sensor data could be the key to understanding and influencing traffic in a whole new way.”

Sazara received a BS in Electrical-Electronics Engineering from Bogazici University (Turkey) and an MS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Colorado State University. He expects to graduate in 2018.

Contact Cem Sazara at