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Arash Tavakoli, Ph.D.

Researcher in

Human-centered Smart Cities

I am an incoming Assistant Professor at Villanova University in Transportation Engineering, starting in Fall 2023. If you are interested in working with me shoot me an email


I am currently a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University, working in Professor Billington's LabAt Stanford I work on occupant sensing as well as human-centered design for the built environment.

I have earned my Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at the University of Virginia working in Professor Heydarian's BRAIn Lab. My Ph.D. was focused on in-the-wild modeling of drivers' states and behaviors.


Human-centered smart cities

I am interested in modeling human behavior and state and how they are affected by different elements of a smart city such as direct or indirect interactions with novel technologies (e.g., autonomous vehicles, intelligent transportation systems, smart buildings, etc).

During my Ph.D. my main research was at the intersection of engineering, psychology, and computer science where I attempted to understand and build naturalistic models of drivers' state and behavior in different contextual settings. Such models can be used for developing human-centered autonomous vehicles. 


Later during my postdoc at Stanford, I continued exploring human state modeling with a focus on occupants and their interaction with the building design and ambient conditions. 


Human-centered vehicles

Naturalistic modeling of driver's states and behaviors requires multimodal longitudinal driving datasets that include all elements of driving contexts including physiological measures of drivers together with the vehicle and environmental data in real-world settings in different locations and in different time frames. On the left, you are looking at drivers heart rate at different locations in the city of Charlottesville, in which higher values are shown with darker red colors. 


During my Ph.D. journey as well as postdoctoral studies I have worked on a number of projects centered around naturalistic modeling of human's state in different environments within a city environment such as drivers, cyclists, and occupants of buildings. 


In my Ph.D., I have designed and implemented a novel human-centered longitudinal naturalistic driving study, namely HARMONY, where driver's states and behaviors are monitored through cameras, smart watches, and multiple APIs. 

Based on HARMONY I have proposed different models to estimate drivers' state through a multimodal approach and in relation to the driving context.


Through HARMONY, we have collected environmental as well as driver specific data including driver's physiological measures, facial and environmental videos, and vehicle specific measures such as speed. Current HARMONY dataset includes 22 participants that were monitored each for a duration of at least 3 months.


  • Went back to UVA for my graduation and came back with two awards! The CEE award for Superior Research and the School of Engineering and Applied Science award for Outstanding Doctoral Student. What a fun few days it was back at Alma Mater. Charlottesville will always stay as my home in the US! (May 2023)

  • I will be an Assistant Professor at Villanova University in Transportation Engineering Fall 2023!!! Very Excited! I am recruiting students, grad and undergrad!

  • Our paper "Rethinking infrastructure design: evaluating pedestrians and VRUs’ psychophysiological and behavioral responses to different roadway designs" is now published in the Journal of Scientific Reports. What a fun collab. Read the article here. (April2023)

  • Our paper "Occupant privacy perception, awareness and preferences in office environments" is now published in the Journal of Scientific Reports. What an amazing experience. Read the article here. (March 2023)

  • Our paper "Psycho-physiological measures on a bicycle simulator in immersive virtual environments: how protected/curbside bike lanes may improve perceived safety" is now published in the Journal of Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior. What an exciting project this was. Read the article here. (December 2022)

  • Our paper "Driver State Modeling through Latent Variable State Space Framework in the Wild" is now accepted to the Journal of IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems (IEEE ITS). This has been a dream of mine for a long time and I cannot be more excited. Read a preprint here. (October 2022)

  • Our paper, "Human Wellbeing Responses to Real and Simulated Workplaces" is now accepted to the ACM Buildsys 2022. I will be at Buildsys this year, let me know if you are also attending. (October 2022)

  • I presented our paper, "The Impact of Surrounding Road Objects and Conditions on Drivers Abrupt Heart Rate Changes" in the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society (HFES) Annual Meeting 2022. Read a preprint here. (October 2022)

  • I have joined Stanford University as a postdoctoral research scholar in Professor Billington's Lab. Excited! (July 2022)

  • I have defended my Ph.D. titled "Driver State Modeling through Multimodal Naturalistic Driving Data" on May 19 2022. I am very thankful to many people who helped me including my advisor Professor Heydarian, committee members, and my family and friends. (May 2022)

  • Our paper, "Multimodal Driver State modeling through Unsupervised Learning" is now published in the Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention! Read the paper here, or watch the video here. (March 2022)

  • Alan Wang and I were placed 3rd in the Human-Building Interaction Hackathon, EXCITING!!! (February 2022)

  • I presented my research for the HPDS group at Stanford University!! Excited!!! (February 2022)

  • I defended my proposal today!! Officially a Ph.D. Candidate. Only a few more months to go! (January 2022)

  • Our paper, "Humanizing Autonomy through Unsupervised Modeling of Naturalistic Driving Data" is accepted to the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting. I will present our poster at Convention Center, Hall A, on Jan 12, 2022 8:00AM - 9:30AM. My presentation number is TRBAM-22-03751.  Stop By if you're around! (January 2021)

  • I presented my research at the Department of Psychology at UVA. Very Exciting! (November 2021) 

  • I have been selected as a presenter at the CPS NSF PI meeting. The presentation can be viewed here (June 2021).

  • ​I presented our research at the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) summer meeting. This was related to the proposal I won last year for the project "HARMONY: a human-centered multimodal driving study framework" which included $5000 funding (June 2021). 

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