Nidhi Kalra

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Director, San Francisco Bay Area Office; Codirector, RAND Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty; Senior Information Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
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Ph.D. and M.S. in robotics, Carnegie Mellon University; B.S. in computer science, Cornell University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Nidhi Kalra is a senior information scientist at the RAND Corporation. She is the director of RAND's San Francisco Bay Area office and co-director of RAND's Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty. Her research focuses on autonomous vehicle policy, climate change adaptation, and tools and methods that help people and organizations make better decisions amid deep uncertainty. She spearheads RAND's autonomous vehicle policy work. Kalra is the lead author of the studies “The Enemy of Good: Estimating the Cost of Waiting for Nearly Perfect Automated Vehicles (2017)” and “Driving to Safety: How Many Miles of Driving Would It Take to Demonstrate Autonomous Vehicle Reliability? (2016)” and co-author of the flagship report “Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policymakers (2016).” She has over ten years of experience in autonomous vehicle policy and is committed to using her expertise to further evidence-based policy making. She has testified on autonomous vehicle policy at three congressional hearings and is also a member of the California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee, which provides guidance to the State legislature on road use charge alternatives to the gas tax.

Kalra also helps organizations improve how they make robust decisions, particularly in the face of climate change, which she views as the most urgent problem of our time. She recently led a project to ensure long-term water security in Lima, Peru and is helping the State of California make long-term investments in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In 2013, she served as a senior decision scientist in the Office of the Chief Economist of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, where she helped launch the World Bank's portfolio in robust decision making.

She received her Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.

Recent Projects

  • Developing robust flood risk management strategies for Ho Chi Minh City
  • Informing regulations for autonomous vehicle technologies
  • Developing research priorities for energy and environment research institutions
  • Improving the use of technology in transportation

Selected Publications

James M. Anderson, Nidhi Kalra, Karlyn D. Stanley, Paul Sorensen, Constantine Samaras, Oluwatobi Oluwatola, Autonomous Vehicle Technology: A Guide for Policymakers, RAND Corporation (RR-443-2), 2014

Robert J. Lempert, Nidhi Kalra, Suzanne Peyraud, Zhimin Mao, Sinh Bach Tan, Dean Cira, Alexander Lotsch, Ensuring Robust Flood Risk Management in Ho Chi Minh City, World Bank, 2013

Steven W. Popper, Nidhi Kalra, Richard Silberglitt, Edmundo Molina-Perez, Youngbok Ryu, Mike Scarpati, Strategic Issues Facing Transportation, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, 2013

Robert Lempert and Nidhi Kalra, Managing Climate Risks in Developing Countries with Robust Decision Making, World Resources Institute, 2011

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: CNN International;; KNX-AM; KPCC-FM AirTalk; KPCC-FM Online; KQED-FM; Marketplace Radio; NBC News Online; NHPR/New Hampshire Public Radio Online; Radio Health Journal; Rudy Maxa’s World with The Careys; U.S. News & World Report; WUSF-TV Online

Commentary: World Bank Let's Talk Development Blog; New York Times; World Bank The Water Blog


  • A delivery driver in the driver's seat with a clipboard and box

    What Autonomous Vehicles Could Mean for American Workers

    Autonomous vehicles are projected to hit American roads within the next few years. They promise safer transportation, greater mobility for millions of Americans, and other benefits. But they will also have enormous impacts on the workforce.

    Aug 29, 2017 The RAND Blog

  • An autonomous version of Acura's RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD navigates around a dummy at carmaker Honda's testing grounds at the GoMentum Station autonomous vehicle test facility in Concord, California June 1, 2016

    How California Is Trying to Keep Autonomous Vehicle Development on Track

    California's Department of Motor Vehicles recently proposed new regulations governing the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Will this help retain the state's status as a testing and deployment ground for the technology, and will it make California safer?

    Apr 10, 2017 TechCrunch

  • An aerial view of Foster City, California, April 19, 2009

    Innovation in the Bay Area: Q&A with Nidhi Kalra

    Nidhi Kalra discusses what Silicon Valley startups and policy researchers have in common, whether test-driving autonomous vehicles could really prove their safety, and more.

    Mar 7, 2017

  • A fleet of Uber's Ford Fusion self-driving cars are shown during a demonstration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 13, 2016

    Driving to Safety: Autonomous Vehicle Questions, Answered

    A recent RAND report found that test-driving autonomous vehicles is not a feasible way to determine when they will be safe enough for consumer use. This resulted in a lot of questions.

    Oct 25, 2016 The RAND Blog

  • A fleet of Uber's Ford Fusion self-driving cars are shown during a demonstration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 13, 2016

    When Will We Know Self-Driving Cars Are Safe?

    Will autonomous vehicles be safe before they are allowed on the road for consumer use? Maybe. And that might be the best that can be said.

    Sep 25, 2016 Newsweek

  • The interior of a Tesla Model S is shown in autopilot mode in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2016

    Fatal Crash Shouldn't Kill Self-Driving Cars

    The first known fatality in an autonomous vehicle occurred on May 7 and raises important questions. It does not, however, mean that self-driving cars are less safe than human drivers or that development of the technology should be stopped.

    Jul 16, 2016 USA Today

  • Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, talks about developing autonomous cars during the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 5, 2016

    Why It's Nearly Impossible to Prove Self-Driving Cars' Safety Without a New Approach

    There are arguments to be made for permitting driverless cars in some capacity even if they are not quite as safe as human drivers, because doing so may enable developers to improve them faster, and thus save more lives overall.

    May 12, 2016 Dallas Morning News

  • A line of Lexus SUVs equipped with Google self-driving sensors awaits test riders in Mountain View, California, September 29, 2015

    With Driverless Cars, How Safe Is Safe Enough?

    Waiting for autonomous vehicles to operate perfectly misses opportunities to save lives by keeping far-from-perfect human drivers behind the wheel.

    Feb 1, 2016 USA Today

  • The coastline in the Miraflores district of Lima, Peru

    Ensuring Robust Water Management Strategies in Lima-Callão, Peru

    Water resource agencies around the world are grappling with how to make smart investments to ensure long-term water reliability at a time of unprecedented water stress, growing demands, uncertain climate change, and limited budgets.

    Nov 16, 2015 The World Bank Water Blog

  • The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion autonomous concept car is shown on stage during the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 5, 2015

    To Hit the Road, Driverless Cars Must Be Safe, Not Perfect

    Once driverless cars are safer than the average human driver, they should be allowed to hit the road. Indeed, waiting for autonomous vehicles to be perfect would be its own safety concern because it would mean the needless perpetuation of the risks posed by human drivers.

    Jan 29, 2015 The New York Times

  • Power lines stretch across rural Turkey, where the World Bank has renewable energy and energy efficiency projects

    Making Informed Investment Decisions in an Uncertain World

    Changing how we make development decisions requires a cultural shift as much as it requires an analytical shift. Methodological innovations like Robust Decision Making can help. By motivating and equipping analysts to manage uncertainty, they can shape how we think about, discuss, and make decisions.

    Feb 28, 2014 The World Bank Let's Talk Development Blog