Gold Coast academic, Emeritus Professor Ljubo Vlacic of Griffith University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment is passionate about his field of research and teaching.
He is also passionate about the global society that brings together “Intelligent Transport” experts. These innovators – engineers, designers, scientists, IT gurus, policy makers and operators - from all parts of the world, are transforming the workings of all modes of transport.
Professor Vlacic and his peers are at the cutting edge of discovery and research - where technology and artificial intelligence coalesce to drive extraordinary change.
In January 2023, Professor Vlacic was appointed President-Elect of the IEEE - Intelligent Transportation Systems Society (ITSS), the global peak body for the field.
The appointment of one of Gold Coast’s own to this important role is a historic development and acknowledges his profound impact.
“This recognition also brings a four-year responsibility as I will be President during 2024 and 2025 and then Immediate Past President in 2026 with commitment to transfer my knowledge to my successor, the 2026 President,” Professor Vlacic says.
He has been a Member of the Board of the IEEE – ITSS Governors since 2020 and committed to its global community of peers.
Professor Vlacic’s career has encompassed senior management positions in Research and Development including Technical Director of Research Institute (industry); Project/Program Director (industry and academia); and also Head of School (academia).
He is renowned for his research into Decision-making and Control Systems and the application of these theories and their algorithms to: Industrial Plant Automation, Mechatronics, Intelligent Robotics, Co-operative Self-driving (Driverless) Vehicles and Intelligent Transportation Systems.
Professor Vlacic has been working on algorithms for co-operative self-driving vehicles for several decades.
In 2002, together with his team, Professor Vlacic was involved in field-tests in France to showcase their capability on public roads. Co-operative self-driving vehicle manoeuvres were demonstrated in settings with conventional vehicles. The opportunity was an “intense exchange of information” – that informed further research.
“Australia has contributed a lot of ideas and initial prototypes through testing those ideas in laboratory environments. But very often, unfortunately, commercialisation is taken offshore due to lack of support and because the automotive manufacturing industry has ceased in Australia.”
A polymath with a wide range of knowledge
As an engineer he is precise, logical, methodical and a capable mentor and teacher. But this is not all.
Look at his CV and you will see a list of achievements that dimension his brilliance – not only in engineering but also in philosophy and music, and particularly as a violinist. A polymath no doubt – talented and respected the world-over.
Professor Vlacic has addressed audiences at conferences in many countries – and since 1996 has been instrumental to bringing 13 conferences to the Gold Coast with more on the horizon.
Future Challenges in Intelligent Transport
Just think about all the technology that sits behind the modern motor vehicle, or large-scale passenger movers like buses, cruise ships, passenger or military aircraft, and you start to understand the wide impact of Intelligent Transport Systems.
Professor Vlacic and his collaborators have been developing co-operative decision-making algorithms for deployment in Intelligent Transport long before these applications reached the marketplace for large-scale use.
The future of Intelligent Transport has been cracked wide open as the application of Artificial Intelligence and other high-tech systems continue to be rolled-out commercially.
Professor Vlacic notes that the major challenge continues to be the absence of integrated systems and interoperability amongst system components.
It’s a bit like the Apple versus Android divide, or an inability to appreciate, relate to and interact with other cultures due to a lack of understanding of their native languages, he reflects. The world of Intelligent Transport also has its own commercially and geo-politically driven platform silos.
This lack of integration of systems – or holistic approach, means the benefits of Intelligent Transport Systems can be constrained.
Symbolic beginning in Australia
Professor Vlacic’s personal story is remarkable – he arrived in Australia in 1991 at the same time as war broke out in his homeland of the former Yugoslavia. Brisbane has been his family’s home ever since.
“I was offered an academic position with Griffith in late 1990 and arrived with my family - wife Mira, son Bojan and daughter Jelena on the 6th of July 1991 departing from my former country, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the 4th of July 1991 - which was a symbolic beginning of my employment with Griffith University and my immersion in the Australian way of life.”
“Thus, our decision to move to Australia was made in early 1990, when we were in the USA on my Fulbright Post-doctoral Research Fellowship.”
He is pleased that Griffith University’s contribution to research into co-operative self-driving vehicles has been recognised by the profession, but is reluctant to claim personal credit for this.
“I do not like to talk about my achievements in the profession as they are not just my own achievements, but rather the outcomes of longstanding fruitful collaborations and interactions with my peers, my team and fellow students.”
Looking to the forefront has always been a focus of Professor Vlacic’s work – so what does the world of Intelligent Transport Systems look like in the future?
“Intelligent Transport System solutions, products and services bring a quality step change to the transport safety, increase people’s mobility, enable equality in accessing transport services and let people enjoy a journey to their destinations.”
Partnership with Destination Gold Coast
His partnership with Destination Gold Coast has been hugely successful because of his deep understanding of the impact and value of conferences.
“So far, I have organised 16 national and international conferences, 13 of them on the Gold Coast. The very first one was in 1996. All of it thanks to enormous support received from the Destination Gold Coast Business Events.
“Typically, our partnership starts immediately from the day of my decision to prepare a conference bid and lasts till the very last minute of the conference farewell session.
“In 2024, as well as in 2025, I will host the Australian & New Zealand Control Conference and, also in 2025, I will bring the IEEE – Intelligent Transportation Systems Conference to Australia,” Professor Vlacic said.
For Professor Ljubo Vlacic the next chapter of his career will be immensely rewarding – and it will also be a great honour for the Gold Coast and Australia that he is at the helm of the IEEE-ITSS.
Global societies and associations play a key role in connecting communities and allowing knowledge transfer that enables ideas, discoveries, innovations and learning to flourish.
There is no doubt, that many will benefit from Professor Vlacic heading the global peak body for Intelligent Transport – as they have at Griffith University in the decades that he has been there.
He is a born teacher, connector and the Gold Coast is proud to honour him as one of its finest leaders and ambassadors.