The annual Society of Automotive Engineers International Congress and Exposition has evolved into such a, well, glitzy affair, the uninitiated might easily confuse the glowing, sometimes humming show floor for that of the Consumer Electronics Show or maybe the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. (SEMA) circus.

It hasn't always been this way, and the proof is in what's going on upstairs in Detroit's Cobo Center. In those upstairs meeting rooms is the real deal, the nitty gritty, the backbone of SAE: the technical sessions and paper presentations.

If the hype and holler on the main floor is SAE's Super Bowl, then the technical sessions are where the offensive and defensive coordinators toil in earnest to make it all happen. What they're discussing in those sessions often develops into what's being hawked - eventually - by players on the main floor.

Hardcore SAE attendees don't even hit the main floor. They quietly file upstairs to find out what's really happening in the business. To them, the technologies and ideas on the show floor are yesterday's news.

For SAE '99, WAW's editors have subjectively highlighted some potentially intriguing technical sessions and paper presentations, so that you, too, might become one of the "inner circle." Some of our selections reflect personal biases. Some promise to be illuminating. Some are sublime. And some just look off-the-wall. Decide from these suggestions:

Advanced Design and Manufacturing:

n Debunking the Myth of Parametrics or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love DFM. By Biman Ghosh, Galorath Inc. (Mon. 2 p.m.).

n Design Flexibility for Hydroformed Automotive Parts. By Gary E. Morphy, Vari-Form Inc. (Tues. 3:30 p.m.).

Vehicle Dynamics

n Ultralight Steel Auto Suspension - A Progress Report. By Nick Sampson, Lotus Engineering and Peter Rawlinson, British Steel (Mon. 12:40 p.m.)

n Windshield Washer Spray Performance at High Vehicle Speeds. By Surya Raghu, Fred Heil and Aland Santamarina, Bowles Fluidics Corp. (Wed. 9:30 a.m.)

n Driver Crash Avoidance Behavior in Light Vehicles Equipped with ABS. By Elizabeth Mazzae, Frank S. Barickman and Garrick J. Forkenbrock, NHTSA/VRTC/ U.S. DOT (Thurs. 2 p.m.)

SI Engines

n Ion Current Sensing for Spark Ignition Engines. By Jurgen Forster, Achim Gunther, Markus Ketterer and Klaus-Jurgen Wald, Robert Bosch GmbH (Mon. 10 a.m.)

n Design of SI Engines in Regard to Volume Production Beyond Year 2000. By Ralf Marquard and Frank Beste, AVL List GmbH (Mon. 2 p.m.)

n New Cycles for Automotive Engines. By Cyril Robinet, Pascal Higelin and J. Andrzejewski, Universite d' Orleans

n Research on Fuel Spray and Air Flow Fields for Spark-Ignited Direct Injection Engine Using Laser Image Technology. By Kyu-hoon Choi, Jong-Ho Park, Nae-Hyun Lee, Chul-ho Yu and Seok-hu Noh, Kia Motors Corp. (Tues. 2:30 p.m.)

n Development of New Iridium Alloy for Spark Plug Electrodes. By Hironori Osamura and Nobuo Abe, Denso Corp. (Wed. 11 a.m.)

Diesel Engines

n Turbulent Self-Ignition and Combustion Modeling in Diesel Engines. By Antonio Cruz and Thierry A. Baritaud, Institut Francais du Petrole; Thiery Pionsot; CRCT (Thurs. 9:30 a.m.)

n Trial of New-Concept Diesel Combustion System: Premixed Compression-Ignited Combustion. By Yoshinori Iwabuchi, Kenji Kawai, Takeshi Shoji and Yoshinaka Takeda, Mitsbubishi Motors Corp. (Mon. 11 a.m.)

n Use of Ozone-Enriched Air for Diesel Particulate Trap Regeneration. By Yiannis A. Levendis, Northeastern Univ.; Christopher A. Larsen (Mon. 2 p.m.)

n Barometric Pressure Estimator for Production Engine Control and Diagnostics. By Peter M. Olin and Peter J. Ma-loney, Delphi Automotive Systems (Mon. 11 a.m.)

n Experimental Investigations of a Novel Modular Pulse Converter Turbocharging System for Vehicle Engines. By Zhang Yong and Li Bing, Huazhong Univ. of Science & Tech. and Zhang You, Jiao Tong Univ. (Thurs. 11:30 a.m.)

Safety

n Injury Mitigating Benefits of an Inflatable Shoulder Belt for Seat Integrated Application. By Shyam S. Karigiri and Robert V. McClenathan, Universal Propulsion Co.; James A. Kargol and Ilango Shan-mugavelu, Johnson Controls Inc. (Mon. 1 p.m.)

n Accident Analysis and the Measures to Establish Compatibility. By R. Zobel, Volkswagen AG (Mon. 10 a.m.)

n NHTSA's Vehicle Compatibility Research Program. By Clay Gabler, Steven Summers and William T. Hallowell, NHTSA. (Mon. 2:30 p.m.)

Alternative Propulsion

n Electromechanical Powerplants for EV and HEV Applications: Challenges and New Opportunities. By G.A. Narzi, General Motors Corp. (Mon. 2:30 p.m.)

n Design and Analysis of Starter-Alternator Installation in a Hybrid Electric Vehicle. By Michael B. Levin, Jeffrey E. Chottiner and Arun K. Jaura, Ford Motor Co.; Zane J. Ullman, Luk Inc.; Jeffrey J. Votteler, Adapco Ltd. (Wed. 2 p.m.)

Drivetrain

n High-Efficiency Compact Fixed Constant Velocity Universal Joint. By Akira Wakita and Keisuke Sone, NTN Corp. (Wed. 11:30 a.m.)

n An Overview of Current Automatic, Manual and Continuously Variable Transmission Efficiencies and Their Projected Future Improvements. By Michael A. Kluger, Southwest Research Institute (Thurs. 1:30 p.m.)

Emissions Control

n Global Trends in Diesel Particulate Control - A 1999 Update. By Michael P. Walsh (Mon. (9 a.m.)

n Electrochemical Reactor for Exhaust Gas Purification. By Henrik Christensen, Jorgen Dinesen, Henriette Engell and Kent Hansen, Dinex A/S (Tues. 3:30 p.m.)

n NOx Emissions from Direct Injection Diesel Engines with Water/Steam Dilution. By A.M. Mellor and J.P. Mello, Vanderbilt Univ. (Wed. 9:30 a.m.)