15 Engineers Who Are Transforming the Auto Industry: Page 12 of 19

These 15 engineers are working on the auto industry’s most influential projects, from autonomy and electrification to safety and manufacturing.

product of countless ideas and iterations, Kondrad said. “We would fabricate very quickly, learn from it, go back to the computer, do a few rapid prototype parts, and just keep improving it,” he told us.

Kondrad’s background fit neatly into the project. A mechanical engineering grad from Central Michigan University who also holds an auto body design degree, Kondrad has spent more than 25 years in seating. He started his career in seating engineering with a local design contractor, where he says he learned how to prototype his ideas. Later, he did co-op work for Ford, learning about the use of plastics, foams and hard trim materials in seats.

And the experience has paid off. The new seat, employed in the 2017 Lincoln Continental, is 8% lighter than predecessors and cost 15% less, despite the addition of the new features. It was named a Grand Award winner in a Society of Plastics Engineers competition and won a Ten Best of 2016 award given by the Detroit News .

Next, Kondrad wants to point the company’s innovating ability at the autonomous car market. Seats, he says, can spell the difference between drivers being alert and aware or distracted and uncomfortable. And he wants to be there to make that difference.  “Autonomous is a hot topic right now, and we’re beginning to look at innovations for that,” he said. “But first, we have to keep this core group together, so we can deliver more innovations.”

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From Video Games to the Future of the Automobile

Chris Oesterling developed a diagnostic system that saves General Motors an astounding $350 million a year.

Chris Oesterling helped build the software platform for GM’s fledgling OnStar Division, has developed wireless diagnostic systems to help weed out vehicle warranty issues, and is now laying the electronic groundwork for the company’s new car-sharing business, called Maven. (Source: General Motors)

When he was writing Atari video games in assembly language during the mid-1980s, Chris Oesterling never foresaw himself as an automotive engineer. But back then, automotive electronics held little promise for engineers.

How times change. In the ensuing 30 years, Oesterling helped build the software platform for GM’s fledgling OnStar Division, developed wireless diagnostic systems to help weed out vehicle warranty issues, and is now laying the electronic groundwork for the company’s new car-sharing business, called Maven. In the process, he has earned more than 70 patents, with 30 more pending.

And the key to it all, he says, was the video games. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Oesterling recalled recently. “It helped with firmware implementation, because writing back then was so difficult. Having that background was great.”

Indeed, it’s hard to question Oesterling’s assessment, given the fact that he programmed in assembly language on a 1.2-MHz processor with 4K of RAM and 16K of programming space. “We literally counted every cycle back then,” he said.

The experience paid off, though, especially for GM. Working later in the OnStar Division, Oesterling is said to have saved the company an astounding $350 million a year by

Comments

As retired electrical engineer of major automotive company I must say I fully agree with this vision of the near future electrical traction energy source. Battery use will disappear in few decade of time.

too bad there aren't any historical introductions...my team designed and manufactured a hybrid city bus and put 26 on the road in 1998...a series hybrid, 336VDC battery plus CNG-motor-generator with dual motor PLC control; low-floor chassis(sort of copied by Martin Marietta!)four-wheel disc brakes w/ABS; four doors; LED lighting; LCDs and touch-screen driver station...

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