Aachen Engineering Award for Sebastian Thrun: Award Ceremony Postponed to 2021


The ceremony to present the Aachen Engineering Award to the internationally renowned expert for artificial intelligence, Professor Sebastian Thrun, will not take place as planned on September 4, 2020, in the Coronation Hall of Aachen City Hall.


In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, RWTH Aachen University and the City of Aachen, in consultation with the Advisory Board of the Aachen Engineering Award, agreed to postpone the award ceremony to 2021. A specific date will be set at a later date. “We would have liked to have honored Sebastian Thrun for his extraordinary influence on technology in a ceremony in the coronation hall of the city hall in a few weeks‘ time. In light of the current conditions, however, we do not want to take any risks and inadvertently harm the participants,” explained the Lord Mayor of Aachen, Marcel Philipp. “We look forward to honoring Sebastian Thrun in the coming year and then allowing as many people as possible to meet this prizewinner in person under secure conditions,” emphasizes Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, Rector of RWTH Aachen University.

Robotics specialist Thrun is ranked among the 100 most influential thinkers in the world. He started with computer science studies at the universities of Hildesheim and Bonn, where he also later received his doctorate in 1995. Three years later, he went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as an assistant professor, before moving to California in 2003 – as associate professor and head of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford University. Together with the university racing team, he developed the self-driving Volkswagen Touareg “Stanley,” which won the two million US dollar DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005. Soon after he arrived in Silicon Valley, Thrun met Google founder Larry Page and impressed him with his innovative and visionary spirit. In 2011, the computer scientist joined Google and was entrusted with setting up the Google X research department, which later developed Google Street View and the Google Glass smart glasses.

Thrun was named the Aachen Engineering Award recipient after the Swabian family entrepreneur Hans Peter Stihl had won in 2019. The first prizewinner in 2014 was Berthold Leibinger (died 2018), who turned the small Swabian machine factory Trumpf into a high-tech laser technology group. This was followed by RWTH Professor Franz F. Pischinger, who founded FEV Motorentechnik GmbH as a spin-off in Aachen, the scientist and astronaut Thomas Reiter, Professor Manfred Weck as long-standing director of the Laboratory for Machine Tools WZL at RWTH, and the microbiologist Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier as co-inventor of the so-called Gene-Scissors. The award highlights that all of these prizewinners succeeded in giving meaningful impetus to advance society and the economy while also inspiring the younger generations. “Sebastian Thrun is a world-renowned technology trailblazer. The German-born computer scientist embodies digital progress like no one else and has been providing outstanding impetus to research in the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous driving, and the digital transformation of higher education for more than 20 years,” says Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, Rector of RWTH, explaining the decision.


Bernd Büttgens
City of Aachen
Press and Marketing
Telephone: +49 241 432-1309

Thorsten Karbach
RWTH Aachen University
Department of Press and Communications
Telephone: +49 241 80-94323