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Award for the engineer teaching driverless cars to navigate

A QUT engineer at the cutting edge of the development of autonomous vehicles and robotics has been recognised with the 2019 Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering Batterham Medal.

First published 14 June 2019

Professor Michael Milford was presented with the prestigious award at a gala event in Sydney on Thursday 13 June, organised by the Academy.

Professor Milford, who was honoured with the award in recognition of his work over the past five years, conducts interdisciplinary research at the boundary between robotics, neuroscience and computer vision at the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, which is headquartered at QUT.

His latest project involves the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and the iMOVE Co-operative Research Centre (iMOVE CRC), taking an artificial intelligence system on a 1200km road trip of south-east Queensland.

“The big problem that faces autonomous vehicles right now is that at the moment they don’t drive as well as humans in all possible conditions,” Professor Milford said.

“We’re targeting how the car might use infrastructure, such as lane markings and street signage, to help it to drive well.”

Professor Milford is also leading research on new positioning systems for autonomous mining vehicles, working with Fortune 100 company Caterpillar, Mining3 and the Queensland Government.

Professor Michael Milford

Academy President Professor Hugh Bradlow FTSE congratulated Professor Milford.

“The Batterham Medal was established in 2014 to be presented annually to a graduate engineer who has achieved substantial recognition for their work in the past five years,” Professor Bradlow said.

“The nation’s future prosperity depends on embracing new technology to address critical national challenges.

“More than ever, we need knowledge creation, technology and innovation that can be harnessed to drive commercialisation and economic and social benefit.

“Professor Milford has made a tremendous contribution – translating abstract neuroscience concepts into rugged technology that can be trialled for real-world applications.”

Professor Milford’s research looks at how the brain handles navigation and perception to see how they can be applied to challenging tasks such as all-weather, anytime positioning for autonomous vehicles.

His group’s research has involved significant collaboration with industry and universities around the world, including Harvard and Oxford universities, Google Deepmind, Caterpillar, the US Air Force and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, among others.

Professor Milford said he was honoured to be awarded the Batterham Medal. “I’m proud that our team’s work has been recognised by this Learned Academy,” he said.

QUT PhD student Naomi Paxton, who is working with medical device company Anatomics on better ways to 3D print patient-specific surgical implants, was also honoured at the event as the recipient of the inaugural Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship.


Professor Robin Batterham AO FREng FAA FTSE is a renowned chemical engineer who became Chief Scientist of Australia in 1999. He was President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering from 2007 to 2012.

The Batterham Medal is funded by the Group of Eight Deans of Engineering and Associates and administered by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

The Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship honours Professor Ezio Rizzardo AC FTSE, one of Australia’s pre-eminent polymer scientists and a major contributor to the Cooperative Research Centre for Polymers during its 25-year life. The Scholarship is administered by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. The selection committee comprises Academy Fellows who are polymer specialists.


Media contact:

Rod Chester, QUT Media, 07 3138 9449,

After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901,

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