Sebastian Thrun's Frequently Asked Questions

Thanks for checking out my FAQ! I am already a big fan of you...

This page contains a collection of questions which I have received and answered repeatedly in the recent past. At present, I am forced to leave many of my Email messages and phone calls unanswered. I hope this page provides useful information for some of the most urgent questions people might have.

A. Media Inquiries

  1. I would like to interview you about Stanley and the DARPA Grand Challenge or the Google Self-Driving Car. If you want a quick response, please contact Jay Nancarrow at Google: press@google.com.

  2. I would like to obtain high-quality images or video for publication. Please consult the media page of the Stanford Racing Team. If you can't find what you need there, please feel encouraged to contact the individuals listed on this page.

  3. Can you bring Stanley to my show/fair/conference/event? I regret the answer is negative. We are currently talking to the Smithsonian Institution to give Stanley a permanent home in the early Spring of 2006. Before that, Stanley is now fully booked with appearances in Europe and the US throughout 2005 and early 2006. Sorry.

  4. I am interested in Nursebot, Groundhog, Minerva, or any of your past CMU Projects. Great. Anne Watzman from CMU has done a fantastic job providing information. If you want my personal take on these topics, please feel free to email me.

B. Prospective Visitors

  1. I would like to visit the AI Lab. You are always most welcome to visit the lab. We are located in Gates 1A and 2A, and in the South wing of the new Clark Center. Just walk in, talk to people, find out what's going on, and stop by my door (Gates 154) to say hi if I am in. You will find this to be an open and friendly environment. Please excuse if I cannot host you in person. I receive way too many requests of this type.

  2. I would like give a talk in your lab. Unless you have been already invited, the answer is usually negative. Please understand that we are already in the habit of inviting a good number of researchers every month, to present exciting work to us (see, for example, the Broad Area Colloquium, which is open to the public). We simply don't have the time for more presentations.

C. Prospective Students, Postdocs And Staff

  1. Enclosed is my Curriculum Vita. (those Emails often come with: hire me, admit me, I want to leave my country, I want to work with you...). Please be aware that I have received many hundreds of those messages, but I never hired or admitted a person whom I didn't know personally or who didn't come with very strong recommendations from leading researchers in the field. Because of the huge volume of requests, I do not read CVs that are sent to me without solicitation. So please don't expect a reply.

  2. How can I become a student at your esteemed university? Every Spring, Stanford admits a small number of students into its various educational programs. A good starting point is the Admissions page, which contains guidelines for admission and descriptions of the various programs; we also offer a frequently asked questions page. You might want to know that none of Stanford's educational programs solicit direct interaction with Stanford faculty, staff, or students, during the process of applying. In particular, sending me a CV does not increase the prospects of getting admitted. I don't admit students, the University and the Department does.

  3. How can I find out the status of my application? Most decisions are made by mid-March for admissions in the graduate program in the Fall of the same year. If you haven't heard by April 1, send mail to admissions@cs.stanford.edu. Faculty members usually don't know about the status of individual applications.

  4. Are there any vacant positions in the Stanford AI Lab? If an opening comes up, we post it on our Web site. Since I moved to Stanford, I have been receiving applications almost daily, so I really cannot create those 300+ positions every year that it would take to accommodate all of them. Please do not send me your CV without solicitation! Thanks.

D. Stanford Students

  1. I have suggestions and feedback on one of your courses. If you are a current or past student in my class, P-L-E-A-S-E don't hesitate to send me mail. I try to answer every message I receive from a student in my class, and treat suggestions and criticism confidential. I am always eager to learn.

  2. I am looking for an academic adviser. Great! I take students on as advisees only after I had a chance to get to know them, and if I have a vacancy in my group. One way for me to get to know you is to take one of my classes and interact with me. If you send me Email inquiring about becoming my advisee, you'll likely get a recommendation to take one of my classes, especially if you are a M.Sc. student in a different department.

  3. I am looking for financial support. This is usually not a problem if you work with me or one of my students/postdocs, but I cannot charge your stipend or tuition to one of my research grants if you are not working with one of us.

  4. I'd like you to write me a letter. I am usually happy to, with one caveat: If I barely know you, then I will state this in my letter. Sending me your CV doesn't really change this; neither does an office visit. Please consider that it can look quite negative if one of your chosen supporter barely knows you. So be careful that you select only recommenders who know you well. I believe this applies to pretty much any faculty recommender at Stanford.

E. Reviewing

  1. Would you be able to review the following manuscript? I am on a number of editorial boards, and am involved in organizing several meetings. At this point, my reviewing resources focus on these journals and conferences. As a result, I am extremely unlikely to take on additional papers for review. I also have a bias against journals that sell papers for money, and am more likely to review for online journals that make paper available to all without a fee or a charge.

  2. I mailed you a manuscript for review which is now overdue. Please never ever send me a physical manuscript for review before previously contacting me via Email. If I have not previously agreed to review the manuscript, I will not do so when receiving a physical copy. If you first contact me by Email, you will find out whether or not I am available much earlier. So if you are concerned about a fast turn-around, sending me Email first will avoid unnecessary delays in the reviewing process.

  3. Please join our Editorial Board. In all likelihood the answer will be NO if the journal restricts access to paper to people who pay a fee or a charge. I am a big advocate of the free and unrestricted dissemination of scientific results, especially now that we can do this through the Web.

F. Email

  1. I sent you information by Email - Didn't you read my mail? This has become a problem. At present, I receive between 150 and 400 personal Email messages per day. Even if I quit my job and stop sleeping, I wouldn't be able to answer all of them. I am willing to spend up to two hours a day on Email. This means that I am not even able to read the majority of my Email. I realize yours might be one of those that I am unable to read, and I hope you accept my sincere apologies. On the flip side, if I only did Email all day and nothing else, would you really want to talk to me?

Thanks for reading my FAQ. I appreciate the interaction with people all over the world, but hope that some of the most urgent questions will find an answer on this FAQ.