American influence into the base development of our cars.”
Indeed, the 2018 Atlas prime example of that strategy. The new vehicle is a product of an internal corporate belief that the company had been guilty of bringing in cars from Europe with relatively little input from the regions where they’d be sold. That changed with the Atlas. Under Erb’s direction, the giant automaker looked at how Americans lived their lives, especially in their midsize SUVs. Engineers determined that early versions of the SUV were too compact, designed too much from a European perspective.
As a result, they shaped the CrossBlue for the wider roads and bigger cities of the U.S. They also changed the grille, integrated LED headlights, added daytime running lights, developed a new digital cockpit, and settled on a three-row, seven-seat layout. What’s more, the vehicle is being built in the U.S., in Chattanooga, TN, not far from the Engineering Center.
Volkswagen’s 2018 Atlas was designed for an American market and is being built in Chatanooga, TN. (Source: Volkswagen AG)
Plans are to add a similarly Americanized flavor to a forthcoming version of the Passat.
“This is the path we’re taking here,” Erb told us. “We’re not going to develop engines here; we’re not going to develop chassis here; but we are going to create cars that fit the region.”
The role is not an unfamiliar one for Erb, who previously served in management with Audi of America. He also worked as a lecturer in quality assurance at the University of Mainz in Germany, and earned his PhD in mechanical engineering at Aachen University of Technology.
He says he plans to continue his regionalization efforts as Volkswagen lays plans for electrification of up to 25% of its lineup by 2025. During that time, he will also beef VW’s U.S.-based engineering lineup.
“Our goal is to capture the minds of the market,” Erb told us. “We want to be able keep developing vehicles here.”
Toyota Engineer Sets His Sights on Autonomy’s ‘Long Tail’
Toyota engineer Michael James says that full autonomy should not be deployed until the last 0.01% of driving situations are better understood.
Michael James, director of autonomous driving for Toyota: “This technology has the potential to change the world.” (Source: Toyota)
Toyota engineer Michael James has a unique viewpoint on the autonomous car. The real challenge of it, he says, is developing machines that are intelligent enough to handle the “long tail” – the last few complex traffic situations that are almost impossible to imagine, let alone solve.
“We have to be able to handle not only the 99.99% of situations that are pretty straightforward, but also the last 0.01%,” said James, director of autonomous driving for Toyota. “For most humans, that might only happen once or twice in a lifetime, but we still have to do it.”
Under James’ direction, Toyota is working on a two-pronged approach that would allow it to deploy lower-level automated systems now, while continuing to work on the long tail for the future. An automated system called Guardian would