Ding Zhao is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering. He is also associated with the Robotics Institute and the Machine Learning Department at the School of Computer Science and the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation. Directing the Safe AI Laboratory, Zhao aims to develop verifiable, affordable, and good-for-all learning for robotics in the face of the uncertain, dynamic, time-varying, multiple agents, and possibly human-involved environment by bridging statistics and cybernetics.

Zhao is recognized nationally and internationally for his research on autonomous/connected vehicles and smart cities, which synthesizes methods in machine learning, robotics, and design. His group develops rigorous test methods to verify AI-powered robots and learning/generative approaches that model the operational environment with big data to support vision and decision-making development. Methods and tools developed by the lab are being used by the industry and regulation institutes.

Zhao’s research has been granted funding by the National Science Foundation, Department of Transportation, and Department of Energy. He also works with leading self-driving companies around the world including Uber, Toyota, and Bosch.

5315 Wean Hall
Google Scholar
Ding Zhao
Safe AI Lab website

Making AI Safer for Autonomous Vehicles


2016 Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan

2010 BS, Automotive Engineering, Jilin University

Media mentions

CMU Engineering

Robots that can learn to safely navigate warehouses

Advances in chips, sensors, and AI algorithms are enabling robots to continuously learn how to plan routes, avoid obstructions, and operate safely in large dynamic warehouse environments.

Time Magazine

Zhao quoted on digital twins

MechE’s Ding Zhao was quoted by Time Magazine on digital twins, an exact digital re-creation of an object or environment.

CMU Engineering

Artificial Intelligence you can trust

Professor Ding Zhao developed a new course that trains engineering students how to make artificial intelligence trustworthy.

CMU Engineering

NSF CAREER grants awarded to engineering faculty

Four engineering faculty received NSF CAREER awards to support their education and research goals.

Carnegie Bosch Institute

Engineering faculty receives CBI funding

CEE’s Burcu Akinci and Gerald Wang; CyLab’s Eunsuk Kang; ECE’s Gauri Joshi; EPP’s Alex Davis; and MechE’s Satbir Singh, and Conrad Tucker, and Ding Zhao were awarded funding from the Carnegie Bosch Institute.


Zhao quoted on AI

MechE’s Ding Zhao was quoted on WIRED on AI reinforcement learning.

Purdue University

Zhao’s AI research funded by Rolls-Royce

MechE’s Ding Zhao is working with researchers from Purdue University on a project funded by Rolls-Royce that is focused on artificial intelligence for intrusion detection.


Zhao quoted on simulations

MechE’s Ding Zhao was quoted in WIRED about using simulations for industrial applications.

Mechanical Engineering

There’s no stopping MechE

When life throws lemons to mechanical engineers, they make lemonade... and dynamic systems, geometric models, and thermal fluids experiments. There's no stopping mechanical engineers. See what we're planning for the fall semester.

Mechanical Engineering

Building safer AI for a better future

Leading the Safe AI Lab, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Ding Zhao is spearheading research to develop safe, transparent, and reliable AI for autonomous vehicles.