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MAY 2018


Polipo • May 2018




SINCE 1863



Schedule change. Gear change. Side change. Scene change. House change. Life change. Changing is what origins the process. Nothing would live if it didn’t change, first. This issue is like this: different. Changed. As well as many things that we see changing around us in the latest period. But where does change come from? Transformations always happen starting with a need. So, instead of watching from afar, we decided to dive into the wave of changing that sway our days, in university and outside. We’ve asked questions and reasons, confronted teachers and deepened some aspects. In these pages you can read what we found out, but the search continues beyond the last line. Every day is the right day to decide not to stay on the background, but to be active players of the change we see.



And you, when the game changes, do you start playing?










AUTHORS AND COLLABORATORS DIRECTOR: Letizia Petulicchio CO-DIRECTOR: Anna Finotto EDITORS-IN-CHIEF: Antonio Garofalo, Simone Martini and Chiara Vecchione EDITORS: Giovanni Abbenda, Agnese Arrighetti, Ana Avramova, Francesco Benzoni, Filippo Campiotti, Alessandro Casella, Giovanni Castelli Dezza, Michele Chini, Angela Doglio, Giorgia Doni, Elena Ferrario, Davide Grasso, Matteo Guglielmi, Elisabetta Mambelli, Paolo Massaron, Giorgio Negrini, Francesco Padovani, Francesco Papa, Teresa Paterlini, Emanuele Pisano, Marco Previdi, Michele Rampini, Francesco Riva, Stefano Robbiani, Benedetta Rossi, Andrea Silvano, Dario Spreafico, Lorenzo Ticozzi ART DIRECTION: Elena Buttolo CREATIVE DIRECTION: Marco Previdi ILLUSTRATORS: Caterina Cedone, Riccardo Cernetti, Samuele Sanguineti, Camilla Tommasetti

10 - 11


THANKS TO: Ferruccio Resta, Claudio Signorelli, Piercesare Secchi, Staff of Polisocial, Filippo Campiotti, Andrea Sansonetti, Stefano Robbiani, Matteo Garagiola, Michele Bellotti, Giorgia Doni, Camilla Colombo, Caterina Cedone, Team of Lista Aperta


SINCE 1863 BUILDING POLITECNICO written by Ana Avramova translated by Andrea Bertazzoni

During the last years, our University had to face a growing situation of overcrowding, that is as today causing many troubles. It’s here that comes in the new project for the Architecture campus, in Via Bonardi, designed by Renzo Piano: a models’ laboratory, classrooms, and study rooms are at the basis of this facility’s enlargement plan. The goal of these two pages is not to project ourselves into the future imagining how Via Bonardi will look like when work will be over, our intention is to make a jump into past, and see how our university evolved from its foundation until today.

1863 THE SCHOOL FOR ARCHITECTS The Institute, in collaboration with the Brera Fine Art Academy, is enriched by the School for Architects.




This incessant growth needs new facilities, and for this reason some of the new laboratories are on a portion of the Villa Reale’s park, granted for use by king Vittorio Emanuele III: with this development, the Institute now covers almost 10.000 sqm, between covered and open areas.

ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL The Architecture School is now independent from the Engineering School.


1886 1893 1897 1902 1908 1927 1936

THE FOUNDATI0N The place is the Helvetic College, in Via Senato, Milan; here Francesco Brioschi in 1863 founds the “High Royal Technical Institute”. Few requirements were needed, since the only activated courses at the time were Civil Engeneering and Industrial Engeneering, and countig only 36 students.

THE FIRST HOUSE MOVE AND BEGINNING OF THE GROWTH Thanks to the interest of Milan’s Mayor of the time, the Istitute is moved to Palazzo della Canonica, in Piazza Cavour: after this move and thanks to the first contributions made by local entrepreneurs, courses and laboratories can grow bigger.



CASCINE DOPPIE Necessity rises for a single place in which to reunite all the buildings belonging to the Institute spread all over the city: the choice fell upon the Cascine doppie area, in which the University moved, occupying the buildings designed by Gaetano Moretti and Augusto Brusconi. The new facility is made up of nine buildings, in a symmetrical disposition and linked together by porches and underground tunnels. We report that the bells of the clock on the Rectorate building’s tower, come from Palazzo della Canonica.

Polipo • May 2018

POSTWAR PERIOD In the years following World War II, enrollments increase and new courses are created: Nuclear Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering, Engineering for the Soil Defense. The teachings of the Architecture School are deepended, making for new spaces necessary.

GIO PONTI The first project for the Nave building dates 1958, and it included two buildings, but in the definitive project only one single L-shaped building was built. In 1964 construction works of the Trifoglio building are completed: the building is made up of three pentagon-shaped elements and has no competitors among Milan’s contemporary architecture of those years..

VITTORIANO VIGANÒ The enlargment project for the School of Architecture took about 15 years to develop (1970-1985): the heart of the intervention is the large covered patio dedicated as study area. In the last part of Via Ampère the steel frames create the famous letter “A” of Architecture, painted red, on top of the new entrance.

THE ‘50S

THE ‘60S


THE COSTRUCTION SITE In May, work for the long waited campus will start, a project that had the first drafts developed by the ODB studio: three new buildings for a total of 4200 sqm, and a green area of about 8000 sqm.

Based on the initial project by Giordano Forti, Gio Ponti and Piero Portaluppi, the expansion of the campus on Via Bonardi started: the project initially included a rectangular three stories building, organized around a backyard surrounded by glass windowpanes. Due to limited funding, only two wing of the building were built, creating an L-shaped building, leaving unfinished the backyard and the third part facing Via Ampère.

THE‘ 70S 1987 1989



1991 1994 1997 2015 2018




THE NEW PROJECT Draft projects for the new Architecture School campus are presented, signed by nonetheless but Renzo Piano.



How can we face the problem after the recent judgement of Constitutional Court?

TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER translated by Giorgio Negrini

When I came in Politecnico, in October 2013, the master classes were just started. I was not directly involved, it was all far from my experience. When I started to attend the master (two years ago) the english language instantaneously entered in my daily life. Comparing myself everyday with this situation, I realize of how it is useful living in an international environment where to grow culturally and didactically. Hence, as soon as the judgement of the State Council on the deployment of the english language for the master courses, I wondered about the reasons and the consequences of the judgement. To investigate the case I decided to interview the professor Piercesare Secchi, teacher and researcher of Applied Statistics in Politecnico di Milano. Looking for a professor’s opinion, I thought of him, first because I met him during his course of Applied Statistics, for Mathematical Engineering, and also because he was the Director of Mathematics Department when, in 2012, english courses were approved in the Academic Senate.

but today science and technology aren’t written in italian. Moreover, teaching in english allows the access to a community of student and professors wider than the one that we would have if we force ourselves to talk in italian. A class in which there are students and professors of different nationality and talking different languages, above all enriches our cultural experience. Think, for example, of our course of Applied Statistics: beyond italians, there are french, swedish, russian, croats, koreans, chinese, ukrainian, turkish and surely I lost some other nationalities. They will be your colleagues and competitors: it isn’t better to study and know them now? Foreign students are a great opportunity, not only for you: we can let them know our culture and the way in which we make science, our strength. And even if they won’t remain in Italy for work, they can be “ambassadors” of the country in which they have been formed. There exist and advantage for the country, indeed.

Unfortunately, the problem has been brought by some of my colleagues outside of the natural place of discussion of this type of issues. We can’t but stay at what law says. but , as for all the laws, it needs to be interpreted. I try to formulate a naive proposal for the problem of exclusivity: where a course has to be spoken in italian, because of its cultural peculiarity, then we will make it in italian. For example, in a course with a humanistic sort, like a course of ethics of scientific research or of history of scientific and technologic thought, italian could be the language of this course, because english is not use to make research in these fields. I don’t know if this answers the judgement, but I think that there are not enough funds to supply all the courses in both languages. English language at Plimi doesn’t impede italian people to become engineers or architects. I wonder if all the italian engineering and architecture schools would impose the obligation of teaching in english. There exist other high leveled universities for the students who want to follow only italian courses, like Turin, Pavia or Venice, very close to Milan. And what about the teaching quality? It may be that some italian colleague has some more difficulties in teaching in english, but I think that it is a transient problem.

What were and what are the reasons of the adoption of english language in master courses? Clearly, the decision of Politecnico about the english is not applicable homogeneously to all the disciplines. A lot of them are treated and discussed in italian, as in the humanistic framework. But the large part of the disciplines that are developed in a technologic university as Politecnico di Milano uses english almost exclusively. It is easy to check the scientific production of who researches in the Atheneum to see that articles and books in which it is communicated are written in english. Why we have to use another language for teaching? It is objective that english is the international lingua franca. It is not important that our graduates will remain in Italy or that they will move to other countries, they will have to use english as exchange language with colleagues and competitors. We, as researchers, use english in our professional activity and the same will do our graduate. Italian is a very rich language, with powerful expressive instruments,


21 MAY 2012

An Academic Senate’s sentence establishes the obligation of teaching in english for all the master courses from A.A 14/15 and on. A few months later: 126 professors of Politecnico bring the action at TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal) of Lombardia against the Senate’s judgement.

MAY 2013

TAR expresses in favor of the professors, vanishing Senate’s judgement because it “enormously influences the teaching liberty and the right to education”..

JUNE 2013

Politecnico bring the action to the State Council to vanish TAR’s sentence. A.A. 2014/2015: as the State Council has still not pronounced on the case, english courses start.

Polipo • May 2018

Sometimes there is a generational factor, other times a cultural closure. But there are also a lot of teachers that rolled up their sleeves and had followed the courses that the Atheneum indicated to us to improve our english level. We can also ask to a professor to improve himself! I don’t believe that there is a problem for the students: you can speak in english much better than us at your age. In fact, english is one of other arguments about teaching quality. There are professors that, independently of the language, are better. One becomes professor if he is a good researcher, not because he is a good teacher. Then ask ourselves something about how we will teach ten years from now, with which methods and instruments, not only with which language. Who teaches professors how to teach? As the others professor, I have developed my own way of teaching statistics, but I think to be open to change, open to take some advice from who teaches better than me. Language is an instrument to communicate, and languages change over time. Think about mathematics: greeks were using geometry forms, now we are using the symbolic language of calculus. But Pitagora’s theorem is the same, it stays at the base of the large part of classical statistics! Language evolves, substance doesn’t change. Finally, in front of a novelty it is right to have a critic time, we are scientists, we have to be critical, but we have not to close up, always rejecting changes: we have to be critical, but open.

written by Giorgio Negrini

FOCUS ON THE PROBLEM Food for thought to let us keep out banal pub conversations Since the State Council published its judgement, it has been switched on a strong discussion about the english language. As is often the case, a lot of stuff came out. Some clarification has to be done, apart from the opinion one could have, but essentials to make a reasonable discussion and to focus the attention on what really is on the table. 1. We are all convinced about the

fact that english is useful

No one thinks that knowing english is a bad thing with respect to the work market, and surely who is against english master courses doesn’t stay on that position because of this. It is meaningless to set an opinion starting from this consideration. Unfortunately, this has been done by the Politecnico’s Advisory Board, that write on Corriere della sera that “knowing english language becomes essential for the young people during the transition between university and work”. This is largely sharable, but not sufficient to justify the usage of english in master courses because:

a. Politecnico must not teach english, it is

not his task. it has to teach engineering, design, architecture. In fact, if we all would have arrived at the first year with a very good level of english and the aim would have been only to teach a new language, the problem would not raise and master courses could remain in italian.

b. Polimi is not able to teach english,

it does not have the means to do it. Teaching in english is useful to learn some technical term, but not to allow to learn english. Probably, there is not a student that learned english through master lectures. 2. Why english has been adopted

for masters?

Politecnico has the task to form professionists, from this fact the choice of english language has been done: it is obvious that today it is necessary to project the student in an international environment, to make him thinking in english, to let him know foreign students, to let him read international articles, etc. English masters courses provide an “international context” already in university. 3. “So, State Council didn’t

understand anything!”

This problem is legislative, not legal: State Council limited itself to apply the law, it had to. We cannot blame it of having done something wrong. We can consider wrong the law, instead. We can clearly understand that we have to act on the law. It is useless to complain about a judgement that apply the law. It is not possible to offer only english courses: either we change the law, or the State Council cannot say anything more. 4. “Politecnico has to wake up and

provide classes in both languages” 22 JANUARY 2015

21 FEBRUARY 2017

30 JANUARY 2018

Obviously, it would be the high point, where appropriate, make a double binary. In this waya student can choose whatever he likes, but there is the problem that there aren’t enough funds to build this. Unfortunately, in Italy, the universities receive a lto less funds in comparison with foreign universities. Maybe this is where we have to act. written by Filippo Campiotti

State Council pronounces in favor of Polimi, saying that he acted within the border of Legge Gelmini, but not considering without foundation the argument about the unconstitutionality of this law, and so suspending the judgement waiting for the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court agrees with Politecnico, saying that it can decide by itself to provide english courses, without totally sacrificing italian.

The State Council confirms TAR’s sentence and declares unconstitutional the exclusivity of english language.




POLIPRINT What’s the problem? For students of Architecture and Design the cost of prints for deliveries and reviews is high and the result of the exams is influenced by economics possibilities

How would we solve it? We ask that students who own a Scholarship for the Right to Study might have a special price at Poliprint.

How are we moving towards it? We’ve elaborated questionnaires for students of Architecture and Design, together with the other representatives, to figure out the annual average spending for prints and material for models. We’re waiting for a satisfying number of answers to be able to understand how much the economical help, to students who own a Scholarship, will cost to Politecnico.

ENGINEERING LABS What’s the problem?

In general, there is a lack of Lab experiences in Politecnico that also cause a lack of practicality in our study.

How would we solve it? We see as a solution a renovation action, made of simple and concrete actions, instead of unobtainable ideas, to guarantee the appropriate execution of labs activities for each students, meeting the needs of the various courses

How are we moving towards it? In the last months we’ve interpolated various CCS throughout a questionnaire direct to the professors that asked them to point the problems regarding the different labs courses and possible solutions or suggestions to these problems. Once we’ve recollected in a document all the information from the professors who have participated to the questionnaire, we would like to bring them to the attention of the Rector and the other competent bodies, so that this document will be useful to them at the beginning of this renovation work.


DESIGN LABS What’s the problem? It is necessary to renovate the School of Design labs to meet the students needs. There are moments, in fact, especially before the session, in which the labs are overcrowded and the technical staff isn’t enough.

How would we solve it? We’re trying to establish schedules, staff and equipments that will let students work in the best conditions and with adequate assistance. For this reason we’re trying to broaden the opening time slots depending on week days and different periods of the year, to buy new machines available to all the students and, through the 150 hours call for bids, to call some students who can provide assistance in the labs.

How are we moving towards it? In December, before the opening of a new fashion lab, a survey took place between students, with the help of a few professors. It brought out a specific list of needs. Based on these needs, have been bought new machines and decided the lab schedule. In the same way, together with the other representatives of the School of Design and with the managers of the labs, we’ve now made a new questionnaire for the students of imagine, prototypes, fitting and fashion, that will allowed us to make suggestions for the reorganization of the labs, by mid-May.

TRIP ADVISOR ERASMUS What’s the problem?

Who haven’t found him/her self lost in front of Erasmus call for bids, not knowing where to go and having no one to ask to?

How would we solve it? We would like to set an official platform where anyone, who made this experience, can leave a review so that it could be useful to everyone who would like to do the same.

Polipo • May 2018

How are we moving towards it? We presented our idea to the offices that are involved in the mobility, to the Metid and the Studesk. On their indication, we’ve identified some macroareas, with four or five under requests each, that will be a guideline for the reviews: college life, courses, city life. Unfortunately, today Metid cannot give the right instruments to complete the idea but, we’re considering the possibility of giving directly to the students the implementation of the canal.

POLI APP What’s the problem?

Poli app is not very useful: it doesn’t allow the access to important services, it often logout and shout down by itself.

How would we solve it? Adding to the application new functionality.

How are we moving towards it? We started to collect ideas asking to friends and classmates and taking example from the other university. According to the other lists, unifying ideas and energy, we’ve formulated a list of new features:

CHANGING COURSE IN DESIGN What’s the problem? It is complicated and sometimes not very clear to change course in the School of Design.

How would we solve it? Making it easier and clearer: we’re trying to clarify the prerequisites needed to make the transition and the criteria of selection used; to guide the students who are interested in the course transitions, organizing a meeting in order to show with a live tutorial how to proceed with the request on Servizi Online

How did we move towards it? In the last months we made few steps in collaboration with the Presidency of the School of Design: we simplified the information available on the website of the School and eliminated some unnecessary steps in the online procedure. We are also working on the preparation of the meeting aforementioned.

MAKE BOVISA GREAT AGAIN What’s the problem? To who has never happened not to find a place where to study after class? Who’s not tired of waiting in line at the microonde?


Possibility of booking at the administrative office


Administrative office chat


Notifications for important deadlines

How would we solve it?


Enrollment to exams


Possibility of compiling didactics evaluation sheets

Finding by ourselves unutilized or badly used spaces and using them in a better way.


Campus maps (study rooms included)

In April we’ve met dott. Pedranzini, Area Servizi ICT manager, who has successfully accepted most of our suggestions. However, the timings remains uncertain.


How are we moving towards it? In the last months we’ve started to work in this way so that we’ve added new microonde at the first floor of B12, considerably reducing the lines, and it has also been opened a new study room of 28 seats underneath the dining hall B24. We’re going on with the same attitude, paying attention to needs and free spaces and always ready to listen and to evaluate ideas that arrives from friends and classmates.


It often happen that, during the session, there can be overlaps. While for the Bachelor Degree the dates are set by the School secretary, for the Master Degree they’re set by professors, along with the Department secretary. Each professor , though, does not know the dates of his college’s exams: the consequence is a distribution of exams with little attention and without a criterion.

What’s the problem?

How would we solve it?

Asking to Politecnico to make a convention for the purchase of a PC.

As it happens in the Università Statale, we’re proposing that professors of the same Study Course share a file in order to decide their exam dates. It allows everyone to see the exams that have already been defined and it should give the possibility to avoid overlaps.

How are we moving towards it? We’ve introduced the idea to the president of the Grande Scuola, Giovanni Lozza, who has been very helpful. During the February 2019 session this new mechanism will be introduced at the CCS of Ingegneria Biomedica, as a first attempt. If it’ll prove to be efficient, we will ask to extend it to all Study Courses.

To us all pc has become essential: slides, Matlab, projects, Adobe.. But still it is too expensive to buy a really good one that can be a fellow to our study.

How would we solve it?

How are we moving towards it? In July 2017, after a meeting with the offices of competence, we spread out a survey that asked the students what conventions they wanted. We received more than 1000 answers in less than two days. We come back stronger to the offices thanks to these data. They worked on it and now the convention is finally a reality since a few months. We’re proceeding with a monitoring work, but the most important feedback is the one that you all can give us, looking at the available products and writing to the company concerned what your necessities are.


POLISOCIAL SOCIAL CHALLENGES MEET DIDACTICS, A UNIVERSITY THAT WATCHES THE WORLD written by Elisabetta Mambelli and Giorgia Doni translated by Rosamaria Pillarella

Today University faces many queries about its role in nowadays social issues. Polisocial was created in 2012, when social responsibilities became, as well as internationalization and multidisciplinary promotion, one of the main political focuses of Polimi. We met Ida and Emanuela from the Polisocial team to discover more about Politecnico’s commitment within its educational and training offer.



Polisocial is a program that collaborates with researchers and professors, from different departments, in a transversal way, on topics that can not be taken for granted in the university field. Its aim is to build a bond between what happens inside the university, for example researching or teaching, and what happens outside it, trying to shorten the distance between these two worlds, distance that has been widening in the last decades. In this way

we are trying to break down the concept of a university as an ivory tower, that is, an institution of high education that produces knowledge and innovation, but which struggles to export them to help territories and society. Our main aim is to provide both economical resources and structures, promoting a collaboration between professors, to direct the university’s scientific activity towards social issues. Consequently, Polisocial has great potential for students’ orientation, as it states that being an engineer, an architect or a designer not only means working in a factory or devoting oneself to research, but also collaborating with associations and NGOs. The organizational chart of Polisocial provides a board composed of various delegates at the institutional level, in addition to our manager, Susanna Sancassani, and the operational team formed by us: Ida, Emanuela and Martin. The program is structured around three activity areas: operational teaching, research and international cooperation and development. The operational teaching is based on the interaction between the Politecnico’s training activity and external realities, belonging to the third and fourth sector of welfare. These are training projects that, using the skills of students and teachers, respond to the needs of local and social realities. In these activities the teacher is seen as an intermediary between the students of his course and various associations working in different districts of Milan. Polisocial, with these institutions outside the university, elaborates some topics to be proposed to teachers, who deal with them altogether with their students. The greatest value of this approach lies in the possibility of operating on the field, projecting itself into the working context, thus innovating traditional teaching with an extremely practical method. For example, a Product Design laboratory has been developed. It has worked on the issue of autism for several years, questioning the role of design for the social sector. Or, a type of teaching of this kind has been applied to the project Mapping San Siro, a still active laboratory, which works to improve the living conditions and habitability of this district of public housing. In the engineering field, it has been developed a project along with a social firm, that cooperates with young

Polipo • Maggio 2018

adults of San Vittore. In the meantime while their are serving the sentence in prison, these people deal with an extremely precarious situation: the project aimed at finding a way to prepare them back to the labour market while they were still in prison. With this aim, a group on management engineers created a business plan for the oil production. In the end, after a recent collaboration with the Arca project about the migrants issue, it’s born a simulation of Call For Action, where students received proposals for the design of services, courses and activities that Politecnico could offer to these people. It was really interesting, since this is a complex theme. So, all these ideas linked to didactics intend to develop project in a university contest and then to deliver it to external partners, so that it is useful for them to develop the activities of which the association is responsible. Polisocial award, instead, is an award for research projects with high social impact. Since 2012, Politecnico has devoted to this award its 5x1000, so that all the money donated from the society would come back to itself, as social research projects. About these themes, the Professors work involving students through courses, workshops, traineeships or theses.

HOW CAN A STUDENT JOIN THESE PROJECTS? Projects are activated during your course of study, both during bachelor and master degree. To participate to the Polisocial Award, instead, projects are developed by different research groups according to the department of belonging. To join them, it is possible to participate thanks to the collaborations activated by the teachers. Since we wanted to pursue an high quality of competences and to be clear about the work done, we thought that having a teacher as an intermediary would be the best choice. Moreover, all these projects developed with external associations and with professors could be useful to raise student’s sensitivity about all these matters, with the aim of including them into the teaching zone. We questioned about the possibility that Polisocial could also offer voluntary activities, but we preferred to adopt a model that we can call competent volunteering. The basic idea is that the expertise of an architect, designer or engineer in its various forms can be useful to third and fourth sector subjects. Moreover, these experiences allow the development of other transversal skills, ie soft skills such as the ability to work in groups or in situations of conflict.It is interesting that you ask how students can take part in these projects: even if for logistical reasons it is necessary to ask first to teachers, if a student is interested in a project he can propose it to a teacher, reasoning about it with us too.

WHAT WILL BE THE PROGRAM FUTURE STEPS? During these days we are thinking about exploiting the network of relationships grown during these years around the program. For example, we would like to widen the horizon of internship possibility in Politecnico. Right now, the majority of internships are all carried out in companies, but we could use our network of contacts so that we can offer stages in the social sphere to young graduates. By now, we can not propose our ideas directly to all the students in Polimi, but we hope that Polisocial one day will be the landmark for who’s willing to work into the social field. Our idea is to supply each different disciplinary area with experiences of this kind: when we receive requests from students about voluntary or internship activities, we try to use our contacts to give the students some ideas about which associations or NGOs ask to.

IS THERE ANY POSSIBILITY TO INTERACT WITH DIFFERENT DEGREE COURSES? There has been some experiences about multidisciplinarity, that show how it is possible not to take for granted university. For example, there is a program called TEEN, the winner of last year Award, in which there are involved the departments of: Mathematics, Electronics, Information, Bioengineering, Architecture and Urban studies. This project aims to work with young refugees in homeless shelters in

Milano and to give them the possibility to study maths as well as other disciplines thought in Polimi. In this way, they can improve their personal abilities, in order to get a better future, passing through a period as difficult as the one in which they are seeking asylum. It is absolutely not to take for granted that a University would use its own resources for people or for a project like this. Another project is called EnerPOP, managed by energy engineers. Also this project involves different departments, aiming at an increase in cooperation. Their studies are developed in Feltrinelli street, and in just two years they elaborated innovative energy processes, so that both the house itself and the whole community can benefit from it. All these experimental activities can represent an exemple and can help Politecnico and the whole community to build up a conscience. Politecnico of Milan is the first university in Italy to have a program like this. In fact, it is challenging and ambitious to build up, around these themes, an active cooperation between the university institutional dimension and its students and teachers. We wish to create a background of experiences for teachers, that help them to get interested in these themes, beyond their personal interest. We hope that one day every teacher will look for, spontaneously, a social way in which his subject could be useful. Our desire is to start a cultural change into the researching and teaching fields, so that students can have both a technical knowledge in companies and laboratories and the possibility to study finding approaches, ideas and applications in the social sphere.


IF YOU DON’T NEED A DRIVER written by Alessandro Casella, Francesco Benzoni, Francesco Riva and Matteo Guglielmi translated by Andrea Bertazzoni

Tempe, Arizona. On March 19th, 2018 an autonomous Volvo XC90, belonging to Uber, runs over a pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, killing her. Following the incident, the american company decides to stop testing on autonomous driving vehicles. From the initial reconstruction of what happened, it seems that Elaine herself is to blame for the accident, who seems to have crossed the road suddenly and in a position of the road where crossing was not allowed.


An important detail that is not be forgotten is that there actually was a person aboard the vehicle, at least in theory, ready to intervene in case of emergency. The police has then released the videos recorded by two cameras aboard of the vehicle: une pointing towards the road, one recording the assistant driver. From these recordings we can see that the accident was hard to avoid: the road was poorly lit, and the woman crossing all of the sudden was

impossible to foresee. At the same time, the assistant driver, as the record shows, wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on. But shouldn’t an intelligent car, even in critical condition, be equipped with all the necessary to avoid an accident? The Tempe accident has drawn attention on the topic, raising debate on the many topics related to the technological advancements of autonomous drive, that have developed in the recent years.

Polipo • May 2018


The first thing we have to face is, to our regard, also the most important, that is the loss of a human life. It is disturbing to know that somehow it means nothing more than one more number, something to add to the statistics on the good end of tests on autonomous vehicles. The only way not to stop on judging what happened as a “sacrifice for progress” is to look at it through and through, without need for any moralism o ideological accusation, letting ourselves be interrogated by what happened. If on one side it seems unlikely to think of abandoning the road of research and experimentations that have been going on for years, on the other it might be interesting to ask ourselves if we are not running too fast, meaning if we are not overrating the level of automation we reached. Starting from this consideration, we could then investigate about the necessary improvements to avoid this kind of fatalities, staging alike situations on closed roads, and starting again from there. The final goal of designing autonomous driving systems is not to cancel any possibility of fatal accidents, a goal that we know is impossible to reach, from an engineering point of view, but to increase more and more the degree of safety of the vehicles on the roads. By developing autonomous driving as a real alternative to human driving, the number of car accident victims will be drastically cut, coherently with what the European Community has stated as goal, by cutting in half the number of car accident victims by 2020, compared to 2010.

those situations in which, due to external circumstances, a fatal accident will be inevitable? For example: in a case in which a child was to cross the street abruptly, and if the only way to avoid the child would certainly cause the human driver’s death, what choice should be made? The answer to this dilemma is all but an easy one, how MIT researchers demonstrated, setting up a sort of “ethical quiz”, with 13 questions on as many critical

situations, to which is often hard to answer. While addressing these topics, and then when writing this article, we found ourselves unable to give objective and unanimous judgments. We decided therefore to present you some of the man questions that have come up, to allow everyone to confront with them. We invite you then to answer personally, and, if you want, to send us your answers, or questions.

RESPONSIBILITY Knowing then that car accidents, even though reduced, will keep on occurring, we wonder who will be to blame then, who will take responsibility. Currently, responsibility falls on those involved, drivers, cyclists, pedestrians or other. With autonomous driving, responsibility cannot be as directly addressed, it is in fact likely to think that the vehicle will be the result of the joint effort of several third parties, with components produced by different companies, making it hard to individuate a direct component failure, responsible for the accident.


How does the human driver behave in case of emergency? Does he or she have the time to think what could it be the best choice ethically, or do they act by instinct? The autonomous car will use a criterion that will be imposed by a human code programmer, but how will it behave in






Polipo MAY 2018  
Polipo MAY 2018