EVs, AVs and software-defined vehicles take spotlight at SAE’s WCX conference

DETROIT — SAE International is continuing to move away from relying on global suppliers displaying their latest widgets at the organization’s yearly conference, the WCX World Congress Experience.

Although nearly 100 suppliers on the floor at Huntington Place will show 3D printers, testing devices, gears, springs, ball bearings, electronics and more at the April 16-18 event in downtown Detroit, the gathering’s main focus will be presentations from auto industry engineering leaders, test drives of advanced vehicles and high-tech displays from several automakers.

More than 40 vehicles are scheduled for display, including Ford’s F-150 PowerBoost hybrid and a Tesla Cybertruck. Chinese automaker BYD will show its Seagull, a compact EV with a starting price of about $11,500 in global markets. The conference also will include the 1966 GM Electrovan, the world’s first fully operational fuel cell vehicle, and vehicles from Lincoln, Toyota and other automakers.


Recruiting, a lower key part of the conference, could take on significant importance this year as automakers and suppliers work to solve the software problems, battery production snags and other issues hampering the supply and quality — and consumer confidence — of self-driving vehicles and EVs.


Ford Motor Co.’s career website, for example, lists job openings for more than 600 engineers, and two thirds of those positions are in product development, software and manufacturing. General Motors lists more than 150 engineering openings. Both companies advertise heavily on social media to fill the positions. Stellantis, Toyota, Hyundai and many suppliers are also looking for engineers.

“Our team is always recruiting in the sense that we’re always interested in meeting and seeking folks that can bring incredible talent and skills to Ford,” said Ford spokesman Alan Hall.

In addition to Ford, GM, Hyundai, Stellantis, Toyota and EAVX, a unit of JB Poindexter & Co., one of the nation’s largest commercial truck upfitters, will have vehicle displays. On the supplier side, 98 companies will show products, including Caresoft Global, the teardown and cost specialists; Dana Inc., one of the industry’s largest axle suppliers; and dSpace, a supplier of simulation and validation software and hardware. Around 6,500 people are expected to attend, said SAE spokesman Jeff Laskowski.


Here’s a look at several key displays and panel discussions scheduled for WCX:

  • General Motors will show its Hydrotec power cube, a 300-cell 80 kW compact power generator that runs on hydrogen. It can be used as a power source for charging GM’s Ultium battery and drive platform. GM has a number of development deals with construction, commercial trucking, aviation and locomotive companies. On April 17, executives will update the company’s progress on Hydrotec fuel cell technology and business. GM also will display a hydrogen powered medium duty truck. GM and Honda are partnering on fuel cells.
  • The event will feature demonstration drives with an assortment of EVs including the Lucid Air, Tesla Model Y, Polestar 2, Rivian R1T and R1S, Kia EV9, BMW I7 and Mercedes-Benz EQS.
  • Doug Field, a former Apple and Tesla who is now Ford’s chief EV digital and design officer, will sit down on April 18 with SAE President Carla Bailo for a conversation on the issues automakers are dealing with at the start of the self-driving and EV eras.
  • Getting to Level 3 self-driving — eyes, hands and foot-free driving in limited situations — is proving to be a difficult and complex challenge. An April 16 panel discussion with executives from Stellantis, Volkswagen, engineering services provider FEV North America, Virginia Tech and the Southwest Research Institute will delve into strategies necessary to roll out Level 3 technologies. The full schedule of events for the three-day conference is here: https://wcx.sae.org/program
  • Three pavilions on the show floor will feature suppliers developing batteries and components for managing them in vehicles, start-up companies and businesses working on software-defined vehicle technologies.


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