Automotive giant General Motors (GM) held the first of what is planned to become
an annual conference on automotive innovation in Herzliya on Wednesday. The
conference, titled “Cognitive Cars: Driving the Future,” featured lectures by GM
staff from the United States and local Israeli research partners, and a showcase
of GM experimental vehicles.
In the conference’s keynote address, GM’s
vice president of global research and development, Alan Taub, spoke about the
company and the auto industry’s development, and about GM’s vision for the
future of automobiles.
“The first line in the mission of the new General
Motors is ‘to lead the industry in advanced technology.’ If you consider all the
challenges that are going on today, that really is a major
“We are reinventing every part of the vehicle. In order to
accomplish that, the research laboratories lead the front end of that innovation
process,” said Taub.
“We now have eight research labs around the world,
and two years ago we opened our center in Israel. We are proud that this is the
first true scientific research laboratory for automotive OAM’s [Operations,
Administration and Maintenance] in the country.
“The key is that we need
to hire your best and brightest.
Both the people that you educated and
then sent around the world, so that they’ll return to Israel, and the students
that you’re creating today,” said Taub.
“Our goal in moving here is to
tap all the technology, intelligence and knowledge that exists in Israel as we
try to satisfy our mission of making the world’s best vehicles.”
address, Taub spoke about the evolution of the automotive industry since the
beginning of the 20th century and highlighted the challenges encountered and the
ways GM faced them, from the introduction of safety features and reducing
tailpipe emissions to developing electric vehicles that will one day drive
Taub said that after the first autonomous feature, the
antilock braking system, or ABS, was introduced in the 1970s, automotive
companies and drivers began to understand that there were some tasks computers
could do better than human beings.
“That was the beginning of a march
toward vehicles that not only will be stable, but will not crash. If you look at
the vehicles around the world today, you are beginning to see the march – first
towards warning, and in some cases intervention,” said Taub.
is, we are learning how to point the vehicle in the direction the person’s
trying to go and using sensors to determine what’s around. We are on the march
toward vehicles that first of all won’t crash and at the same time will drive
They use the exact same technology.”
Visitors to the
conference could get a glimpse of that future in the form of “The Boss.” Named
after GM’s first research and development chief, Charles “Boss” Kettering, the
Boss is an experimental self-driving vehicle featuring dozens of sensors and
other electronic devices mounted on the body of a Chevrolet Tahoe.
Boss is able to drive, park, and negotiate intersections – all without the aid
of human intervention. A joint design of GM and Carnegie Mellon University, it
proved its abilities when it beat out 10 other robotic vehicles to win the 2007
United States’ Department of Defense’s urban challenge.
One of the goals
of GM’s Israeli Advanced Technology Center is to take the features that exist in
experimental form on The Boss and adapt them to normal vehicles at affordable
“It costs between $250,000 and $500,000 to produce a single
vehicle like The Boss. The real technological challenge is to take systems that
cost that much and reduce them to $25,000,” said Gil Golan, GM’s Israel site
“Every sensor on that car costs $3,200. The next generation of
sensors costs $70. But that still doesn’t solve our problem.
We need a
sensor that costs seven or eight dollars.
“The trick is to leapfrog the
technology. We are currently part of an ongoing global initiative by GM and its
partners to make the technology more reliable, more doable and more
Golan said that the Israeli team was joining the effort on
two main fronts: active safety systems and Human-Machine
“Israel has an incredible amount of human talent in the fields
we require and also has a very conducive hi-tech environment.
we enjoy the benefit of working with some of the world class leaders,
academia and in industry,” said Golan.
“On the other hand,” he said, “we
have invested a lot of money here in Israel and introduced the local
market to a
sector that had not been in existence here before. The fact that GM
facility here exposes local researchers and industry people to a huge
with lots of resources.”
Representing the government at the conference
was Dr. Eli Opper, chief scientist of the Ministry of Industry Trade and
Opper spoke about the three pillars of his office’s work: bridging the
between industry and the academia, strengthening international
and focusing on preferred sectors.
He said that the GM site in Israel
answered all three of the principles, and that he hoped partnerships
would one day lead to technological breakthroughs that are as yet