Dr. Max Donath's research today can be grouped into two areas: (a) novel human interfaces for providing improved situation awareness to the snowplow driver and (b) autonomous navigation on snow-covered sidewalks.
His efforts over the years have been directed towards keeping the driver in the loop, using sensing technologies, control systems, and improved human-machine interfaces to reduce driver error and thus prevent crashes before they happen. From 1997 through 2019, he was the director of various USDOT-designated University Transportation Centers, most recently of the Roadway Safety Institute.
Donath has worked on high-accuracy vehicle position sensing, radar, and lidar sensing, as well as visual, tactile, and haptic sensing and perception—all related to driving. For example, he and a team of researchers developed a driving assist system for snowplow operators in Minnesota that allows them to clear the roads even under whiteout conditions. Based on high-accuracy differential GNSS, a tactile seat, and a conformal head-up-display, snowplows with our technology were used to clear snow in Thompson Pass (i.e., the snowiest place in Alaska) for many years. The system has now been totally redesigned. The latest version is presently being deployed and tested at multiple sites around the state of Minnesota.
Donath received a BEng in mechanical engineering from McGill University and went on to earn SM and PhD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the University of Minnesota in 1978.