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Majors & Degrees

A business idea is born from a research project

May 2, 2023

For some people, issues with their vehicles are a problem.

For Jonathan Lancelot, it’s an opportunity.

Lancelot started noticing issues with the lane correction system on his Tesla Model 3. As a Cyber Defense doctoral student at Dakota State University, he was well-suited to investigate these software glitches.

For this work, he was awarded a Graduate Research Institute (GRI) grant, titled “Tesla’s Lane Assist and Physical Security and Safety Action Research Test.”

Lancelot found very little evidence on test driving cars in a real environment, so he took the methods he learned in computer science and developed a new scientific methodology for field tests on his Tesla. These applied methods found issues with the system. His results have been submitted for publication in the Future Internet Journal MDPI.

“This will hopefully start a conversation in the industry,” he said.

In parallel with his graduate work, he is also developing a business called Cyber Astronatica that will do similar things with object detection. With training from Dakota State’s Paulson Cyber Incubator and Entrepreneurial Center to further develop the company, he plans to enter business competitions, including the Governor’s Giant Vision Competition.

“I decided I want to use my research to influence and innovate in the industry, and DSU is the right environment for this,” he said.

It is why he left industry to return to school as a graduate assistant.

His faculty mentor, Dr. Kevin Streff, said, “Jonathon was working in industry making good money, but he put it aside because he believes in this research idea and what it could mean for commercializing the work for the benefit of all.”

Economic development like this is part of what DSU is interested in creating, said Streff, Coordinator for the Ph.D. in Cyber Defense. This requires industry alignment and collaboration, but “we’ve got to be working on real needs and real partnerships.”

With Lancelot’s business, there are several possibilities. “He could develop a testing lab for drones, self-driving cars, combines, or space gear,” Streff speculated. “It could mean a new industry for South Dakota if we do it right.”

Coming to South Dakota “was a change in direction, but the right direction,” said Lancelot, who is originally from Florida, where his parents worked for NASA. He lived on the East Coast while earning degrees at American University and Norwich University, and when he worked at Lockheed Martin, Apple, and taught at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. 

“I’m happy to be here in South Dakota contributing to this important work, and I would not want to be anywhere else right now,” Lancelot said. “The sky’s the limit.”

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