The automotive industry has a longstanding relationship with technology. At times, technology has provided more comfortable driving experiences, while at other times it has led to superior performance and reduced emissions.
More recently, this relationship has led to significant advances in terms of how vehicles are powered and even how they navigate roadways.
Though these technologies already exist in some form, the refinement of this tech is a long and arduous process, one that requires the best minds in the automotive industry to lead teams, and perhaps even entire companies, into the future.
We have one of these luminaries with us today, ready and willing to discuss his work on the cutting-edge of automotive technology.
Ajeya Gupta, Research Scientist at Ford
Our guest today, Ajeya Gupta, has worked in the automotive industry for more than seven years, initially working with Delphi, a Tier 1 automotive supplier.
Following this role, Gupta began working with Ford, and he’s still with the company today, working as a Research Scientist in the Research & Advanced Engineering department.
Gupta has been actively developing next-generation in-vehicle communication and networking systems.
“These systems are expected to go into the upcoming generations of traditional platforms, as well as the more disruptive self-driving vehicle platforms, with a core focus on designing robust hardware systems while meeting stringent automotive electrical and environmental requirements.”
Gupta has been instrumental in the transition toward automotive electrification, advanced connectivity, and self-driving technology, the latter of which remains a topic of fascination for engineers and consumers alike.
In addition to his work with Ford, Gupta is also an active member of multiple automotive standards organizations, including Automotive SerDes Alliance, or ASA. More on this later.
He also has a patent, valid in the US, Germany, and China, for a vehicle restraint monitoring system.
But that’s not all: Gupta has received multiple Research and Advanced Engineering Excellence Awards from Ford, and he also delivered a talk entitled ‘Automotive Physical Layer System Design for High Bandwidth Protocol’ at the 2019 IEEE Ethernet Tech Day.
That’s quite a career, but for a young Gupta, all of this started with a real passion for vehicles and all that they could offer.
An auto enthusiast at heart
Growing up, Gupta found himself fascinated by cars, high-speed vehicles, and specifically Formula One.
While earning his M.S. in Electrical Engineering, there didn’t seem to be a clear connection to the automotive industry, and as a result, his early job search focused on consumer electronics and semiconductor companies.
But an early internship changed the course of Gupta’s life, as he got a firsthand look at just how crucial electrical engineering was going to be in the automotive industry in the years to come.
“I’m very grateful for my internship in the electrical Business Unit of an automotive Tier 1 [Delphi]. It was instrumental in exposing me to the role of electronics in the realm of self-driving and connected vehicles. Over the years, I’ve continued to see sophisticated electrical systems and software slowly take center stage when it comes to building intelligence into vehicles.”
Clearly, Gupta has already achieved great success in the automotive industry, and he plans to continue pouring his passion and expertise into emerging vehicle technologies.
With all this background information in place, it’s time to move on to some of the specifics of the work that Gupta has been doing in this area for the past several years.
For obvious reasons, Gupta wasn’t able to share intimate details of the tech he’s currently developing, but he did provide many interesting insights into current goals and the likely direction of the automotive industry in the near future.
Building for the unknown
As we’ve already mentioned, Gupta is working directly with communication technologies and networking systems that are vital for self-driving technology.
Autonomous vehicles rely on a slew of different sensors and other sources of information to make decisions within mere moments. But how can designers prepare these vehicles for every possible contingency?
According to Gupta, the main challenge of designing for self-driving vehicles is trying to anticipate a nearly limitless number of unknown conditions, or, in Gupta’s own words, “building for the unknown.”
“As this development continues to mature, the corresponding requirements also evolve to reflect what we’ve learned. We always have to be on the lookout for what’s next while balancing that with immediate needs. The key is ensuring the designs are flexible enough to pivot if needed.”
With thousands of other cars on the road, the majority of which are being controlled by human drivers, who of course can’t be relied upon to focus their full attention on the rules of the road and current driving conditions.
Beyond that, pedestrians, weather, and changing road conditions add to the massive collection of potential challenges for autonomous vehicles.
Despite all this, progress is being made constantly, and based on our conversation, Gupta seems to really enjoy facing down challenges in the course of his work.
Collaborating to create standards
Gupta explained that a number of different technologies related to ride-hailing and vehicle-to-vehicle communications benefit substantially from the creation of standards.
Of course, creating these standards requires collaboration between companies that, under most circumstances, are in direct or indirect competition with each other.
However, these companies, and the individuals leading efforts in these specific areas of automotive technology, Gupta included, recognize the advantages of working together to create a shared foundation.
“As ride-hailing, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and other similar technologies targeting newer business and user models emerge, the role of standardization continues to take center stage. The auto industry has realized the potential and advantage of employing solutions that are compatible with each other.”
Gupta is in fact the co-chair of the Automotive SerDes Alliance, an organization that focuses heavily on standardization initiatives.
“The vision is to create a standardized in-vehicle network for cameras and infotainment-based applications. Interactions with fellow engineers during these meetings help give a sense of the industry’s direction, and they also let us gauge potential headwinds. The discussions are held in the spirit of collaboration, and disagreements continue to be addressed in a respectful manner.”
Gupta also serves as a representative in other standards organizations, such as the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and OPEN Alliance. Across all of these organizations, Gupta has noticed an enthusiastic sense of collaboration between various representatives.
“This kind of collaboration keeps healthy competition alive, but we also benefit from a community-based sense of development.”
Designing an automotive electrical network entails combing through a magnitude of nuances that require a deeper analysis of multiple domains.
Gupta feels that his natural attention to detail and passion for his work have helped him to become a recognized expert in this field.
“I strongly believe my affinity for detail and ability to work through different aspects of system design have served me well in gaining recognition as the ‘subject matter expert’ with my peers within the industry.”
Being a well-known figure in this space also has benefits outside of the design process. Gupta explained that his leadership roles, including the roles within the standards organizations we discussed earlier, give him a more holistic perspective of the competition and the industry overall.
“I’ve continued to utilize my experience by taking on leadership roles in various cross-functional projects. This enables me to stay informed and educated of the upcoming trends as well as the industry’s approach to addressing them.”
Putting together the puzzle
It goes without saying that this is all highly technical work, and for that reason, we asked Gupta to break down the design process of these advanced technologies in a way that readers can understand, even if they’re not especially familiar with electrical engineering and tech-centric design processes.
Gupta’s response? The entire process is similar to a large, very complicated puzzle.
“Working on the product is like working on a puzzle. Each member holds a piece and each piece is necessary. There are multiple dimensions of collaboration that need to be considered. When pushing for state-of-the-art solutions, this collaboration extends to an industry level. When I’m involved with research, I’m always at the forefront of solving difficult and futuristic technical problems and anticipating short-term as well as long-term needs.”
To continue the puzzle metaphor, there are many moments of looking up-close at specific connections and piece types.
In addition to that, there are moments when you just have to step back and get a sense for how the entire piece is coming together, predicting what it’s going to look like once it’s been completed.
Before you know it, it’s time for the next puzzle.
This is an incredibly interesting time for the automotive industry, and as always, competition remains fierce.
It’s a moment of transition in many different ways, and engineers like Gupta are leading the charge into a not-so-distant future where electric and even self-driving cars will dominate the world’s ground transportation.