15 Engineers Who Are Transforming the Auto Industry

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

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.

Here, then, are our 15.

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

Man on a Mission

Tesla CTO JB Straubel is trying to change the world by developing an affordable electric car with a 200-mile range.

Tesla chief technology officer JB Straubel has been building electric cars since age 14. (Source: Telsa, Inc.)

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.”

He got the chance to do that a year later

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