General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner headlines the roster of speakers for the upcoming Convergence 2006 automotive electronics conference Oct.16-18 at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

Also in the lineup is Larry Burns, GM’s vice president-research & development and strategic planning; Kazuo Furukawa, president of supplier giant Hitachi Ltd.; and best-selling author Frans Johansson.

These keynoters join a long list of visionaries, futurists and top industry executives whose presentations at this year’s conference will explore the powerful synergies expected to be realized by the convergence of advanced electronics, propulsion, materials and telematics in vehicles.

GM is the host company of the confab this year, and Wagoner and Burns are slated to bookend the 3-day event. Burns, serving as conference chairman, kicks it off on Monday morning and Wagoner wraps it up, speaking Wednesday evening at the closing banquet.

During the past three decades, the every-other-year conference has grown to become one of the auto industry’s most important technical symposiums. It attracts a global audience of more than 8,000 executives, engineers and technologists.

Burns oversees GM's advanced technology and innovation programs and corporate strategy.

In addition to incorporating innovation into GM’s vehicles, Burns is championing the auto maker’s "reinvention" of the automobile around new technologies.

While his comments have yet to be finalized, a spokesman says one of the subjects Burns is expected to touch on during his Monday morning opening address is vehicle-to-vehicle communications or what GM calls “V2V.”

GM says it can give a car a “sixth sense” using V2V communication, enabling it to detect the position and movement of other vehicles up to a quarter mile away.

If all vehicles on the road were equipped with a simple antenna, a computer chip and GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, a car could know the exact position of the vehicles surrounding it. And those other vehicles would know where it was, too: whether it was in a blind spot, stopped ahead on the highway but hidden from view, around a blind corner or blocked by other vehicles.

With such technology, vehicles could anticipate and react to changing driving situations and instantly warn drivers with chimes, visual icons or by vibrating the seat with a haptic alert. If the driver fails to respond to the alerts, the car could bring itself to a safe stop, avoiding a collision.

“Driving is a very complex task. Knowing where the other guy is and where he’s headed can be as critical as being in control of your own vehicle,” Burns says in a statement on GM’s website.

“V2V technology gives drivers a sixth sense to know what’s going on around them to help avoid accidents and improve traffic flow,” he adds.

Today, vehicles can be equipped with multiple safety sensors for long-range scanning, adaptive cruise control, forward vision, mid-range blind spot detection and long-range lane change assistance, Burns says.

GM has the ability to replace all of these devices with one advisory sensor that will provide all-around, instantaneous traffic intelligence, Burn says. This promises a better and significantly less costly way of detecting other vehicles around your car or truck while driving.

Hitachi’s Furukawa is Tuesday morning’s keynoter. His topic was not set at press time.

Furukawa is the eighth president in Hitachi’s 96-year history and was appointed to his post April 1. Prior to his appointment, he served as executive vice president and executive officer of Hitachi Ltd, and president and CEO of Hitachi’s Information & Telecommunications Systems Group.

Frans Johansson is an entrepreneur and best-selling author of “The Medici Effect,” which was named one of the 10 best business books of 2004 by Amazon.com and, so far, has been translated into 13 languages.

Johansson will talk about how future innovation lies at the intersection of ideas, concepts and cultures.

Frans says he has, in fact, lived at that intersection for most of his life: He was raised in Sweden by his African-American and Cherokee mother and Swedish father. He also was the founder of both a software company and medical device company.

Johansson has spoken extensively about “The Medici Effect” to companies, groups and universities worldwide. Organizations have engaged him to speak on issues of innovation and managing diversity before a wide range of audiences, from top-level executives to human resource practitioners to investment directors.

Details and registration information are available at sae.org/convergence.

dwinter@wardsauto.com