Special Coverage


Gene Kranz, the legendary former NASA director of Mission Operations, will be a keynote speaker, but the overall theme of the Convergence 2008 conference will be very down to Earth: Does this meet real customer needs?

Every other year the Convergence Transportation Electronics Conference brings together top executives, engineers and technology experts from the automotive and electronics worlds to address the leading topics of the day, from highly specific technical matters to broad issues facing all mankind.

Convergence 2006 tackled the lofty topic of reinventing the automobile and the idea of using electronics to help create vehicles that have a minimal impact on the environment. This year will be more tightly focused on the needs of today’s consumer.

“It is no longer sufficient to simply add to the extensive list of features available on today’s vehicle,” says 2008 Convergence General Chairman William H. Mattingly.

“As witnessed with the revolution created by the iPod, the magic lies in how effectively features are implemented, creating the least amount of distraction with maximum intuitiveness. The focus now moves from ‘what’ to ‘how,’” says Mattingly, vice president-electrical/electronics engineering core at Chrysler LLC.

More than 8,000 people are expected to attend the symposium, which takes place October 20-22 at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Among key subjects on the agenda:

  • Targeting Consumer Needs in the Perfect Storm
  • The Human Machine Interface
  • The Need for Standards in the Automotive World
  • Advanced Safety: How Far Can We Go, Will Our Customers Go There?
  • Powertrain Challenges and Solutions for Protecting the Environment
  • The Connected Vehicle
  • Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Stewardship

Kranz will deliver his keynote address on Tuesday, Oct. 21. Aside from his role in space missions at NASA, he is a New York Times best-selling author.

His book, “Failure Is Not An Option,” chronicles his work in Mission Control, from Project Mercury through Apollo 13 and beyond. The book was selected by The History Channel as the basis for a documentary on Mission Control.

The Oct. 20 keynote will be delivered by Sirius Satellite Radio CEO Mel Karmazin and Wednesday’s by Continental AG CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann.

Jim Press, Chrysler vice chairman and president, will speak at the evening banquet on Wednesday, Oct. 22. Panel discussions will follow each of the keynote addresses.

Monday will feature a blue ribbon panel on the connected and autonomous vehicle organized by Larry Burns, head of research and development at General Motors Corp. Panelists will tackle such questions as: “Are driverless vehicles possible?”

Tuesday’s panel, moderated by Paul Hansen of the Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics, will provide a lively discussion of current issues by top electronics executives at General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler and Honda R & D Co. Ltd.

Wednesday’s panel, moderated by Yazaki North America CEO George Perry, will look at the changing business model for auto makers and electronics suppliers and how supply-chain relationships are evolving in non-traditional ways.

Convergence was started more than three decades ago as a humble undertaking, in response to stricter government mandates related to automotive safety, fuel and emissions standards. Now the biennial conference and exhibition has turned into a major event that makes news and influences public policy.

Debate over key issues has been part of the symposium since it started. In the early 1970s, the only electronic components on cars and trucks were alternators and voltage regulators. Yet the industry foresaw the coming electronics revolution and started to harness technology to find solutions to current and future problems.

While Convergence 2006 dealt with weighty environmental issues, Convergence 2004 tackled sensitive topics such as reliability problems with sophisticated vehicle electronics, an issue that continues to raise its ugly head.

Convergence is owned and operated by the Convergence Transportation Electronics Association. Proceeds from the event fund the Convergence Education Foundation, which is dedicated to developing programs and providing funds to assist teachers and educators in providing learning opportunities for students in mathematics, science and engineering.

SAE International provides the technical program and is developing the conference.

Details and registration information are available at ctea.org