Sebastian Thrun is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the area of probabilistic robotics, which is concerned with perception and control in the face of uncertainty. It's all about computing the odds based on what you know and what you learn along the way.
He presents a world where cars zigzag safely through traffic on their own, bringing children, elderly people and workers to their destination. As a first step towards fully autonomous cars in urban environments, don't miss the upcoming 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.
Sebastian Thrun's research focus includes AI, robotics, machine learning, distributed systems, human robot interaction, and programming language design. In the area of probabilistic robotics, he has focused on mobile robot exploration, mapping, and multi-robot coordination. He is the author of seven books and nearly 300 papers.