15 Engineers Who Are Transforming the Auto Industry
March 15, 2017
Engineers are changing the world, and nowhere can it be seen more vividly than in the auto industry. These days, automotive engineers are replacing gasoline with electricity, humans with robots, and mechanical devices with microprocessors.
Here, we offer profiles of 15 engineers who are doing that work. They’re an eclectic bunch, likely to be developing everything from software and electronics to batteries and car bodies. Our top engineers include experts in autonomous driving, RF communications, safety devices, material science, manufacturing, batteries, seating, infotainment, and myriad other technical areas. One is even working on invisibility, and its application to future automobiles.
To be sure, the auto industry employs tens of thousands of engineers, many doing brilliant work. The following group is really just a snapshot – a few of those engaged in groundbreaking developments at seven of the auto industry’s biggest companies.
Autonomy: Andrew Farah, General Motors
Autonomous Cars : Michael James, Toyota
Batteries: Taehee Han, Nissan
Car Sharing : Chris Oesterling, General Motors
Electric Cars : JB Straubel, Tesla
Electric Cars : Josh Tavel, General Motors
Fuel Cells : Sara Stabenow, General Motors
Head-Up Displays: Anthony King, Ford
Infotainment: Joey Oravec, Ford
Invisibility: Minjuan Zhang, Toyota
Manufacturing: Matthew Genord, Fiat Chrysler
Regionalization: Matthias Erb, Volkswagen
Safety: Jason Hallman, Toyota
Seating: Marc Kondrad, Ford
V2X Communications : Roy Goudy, Nissan
1. Man on a Mission
Tesla chief technology officer JB Straubel has been building electric cars since age 14. (Source: Telsa, Inc.)
Tesla CTO JB Straubel is trying to change the world by developing an affordable electric car with a 200-mile range. If ever an engineer was meant to lead an electric vehicle (EV) revolution, it’s JB Straubel.
Straubel, chief technology officer of Tesla Inc. , has been on an EV mission since finding a rusty, 30-year-old golf cart in an Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, junkyard at age 14. Because he didn’t yet have a driver’s license at the time, he convinced his mother to drive him from town to town across the state of Wisconsin in search of batteries, tires, and electric motors, before finally completing the design of his first electric vehicle.
That, of course, was before he convinced Stanford University’s School of Engineering to let him create his own academic major in energy engineering, and graduating with a master’s degree in it.
No wonder, then, that JB Straubel (JB stands for Jeffrey Brian; he prefers not to punctuate it) been on a fast track in the electric car business ever since. He was named CTO at Tesla at age 29 after describing his ideas to former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2004.
“I was talking to anyone and everyone to promote the idea that EVs had turned a corner,” Straubel told Design News in 2009. “I told them that with new battery technology, they could go much, much farther than anyone thought was possible. I wanted to demonstrate my ideas in a working vehicle and break a few perceptions.”