Orla Murphy, 25
Day job: Audio calibration engineer
Education: Electronics Engineering degree
Spare time: Playing viola in the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra and 15-a-side camogie (similar to the Irish sport of hurling)
Orla Murphy is a musician with a degree in Electronics Engineering who harnesses her powers to enhance the perception of sound within cars.
My job is about the perception of sound in the car. In an orchestra you listen to all kinds of sounds, from the really low frequencies of a tuba to really high frequencies from a piccolo, so my ears are good at knowing what to listen for. I wrote a research paper recently on 3D surround sound and working on that is really exciting. But zonal audio – where specific noise cancellation can create different listening zones – is the Holy Grail. We can balance and fade sound in certain sections of the car now, but for the future we’re looking at a scenario where someone in the back of the car making a private phone call wouldn’t be bothered by what the driver’s playing, or the front passenger could be listening to rock while the rear passenger streams classical with no interference. It’s not just about music either. We have to deal with vocal integration, parking sensors and every other sound inside a car.
Brian Waterfield, 49
Day job: Virtual reality technical lead
Education: VR & Gaming Tech Masters
Spare time: ‘I stopped rugby, as coming to work with black eyes didn’t go down well. Now it’s the gym and TED Talks.’
Brian Waterfield leads the virtual reality tech team in the cave to visualise the cars in 2D and 3D and even defy time and space.
Our virtual reality cave was the biggest in the world when we first set it up. It has three walls and a ceiling and is rear-projected with resolution up to four times HD. Normally we’d put an interior ‘buck’ in there and visualise the rest of the car around it. It’s a one-to-one scale when you’ve got these glasses on. It was originally intended mainly for the packaging team and the management of space. But we found more and more departments within JLR wanted to use it so we built a 2D and 3D power wall which interacts with the cave. The cave would only fit so many people inside but the power wall has a 52-seater stadium where people can experience exactly what’s going on in the cave. A physical test of a car relies on many factors – with ice- or off-road testing you’re reliant on the weather – but in the virtual world you’re not reliant on anything. As we develop more ways to simulate we will be able to control time and space with any weather conditions.
Lee Skrypchuk, 35
Day job: Human Machine Interface (HMI) specialist
Education: Electronics & Computing, Display Systems Technologies degrees and currently working on a Automotive Interface Systems PhD
Spare time: Bringing up two kids and supporting Nottingham Forest FC
Bonus fact: Lee’s surname only has one vowel, added by his Ukrainian grandfather to make it easier for other Europeans to pronounce
When the iPhone launched in 2007 it changed how we interacted with personal screens. We want something as intuitive and desirable but balanced with controlling a car at the same time. My research group focuses on a lot of speculative stuff that may or may not make it, but there are still 25 of us. In 2007 there were only four. We’re working on what we call ‘off-surface touch’ with a capacitive system that senses your finger from 15-20cm away – so you can wave your hand to open and close the sunroof for example – using the sensor I’m holding. It could be in production in three years. We’re trying to make our systems more sympathetic so people can quickly switch off from one task and get into another by how we design it. We’re trained at some level to drive but no one really trains us to do the other stuff at the same time. For aviation pilots it’s their job, but for many drivers it’s not.
Kris Kobylinski, 30
Day job: Research technology delivery manager, self-learning car project
Education: Masters in Computer Science
Spare time: Spending time with my wife and daughter, playing football, snowboarding, surfing and electric guitar lessons
Inspiration: Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein ‘for their beautiful minds and amazing inventions’
I lead the development of technologies that don’t exist yet in a team of machine-learning engineers, big-data scientists and human factors specialists. Our aim is to develop the first truly intelligent car that recognises each driver, learns their preferences and offers predictive options. My advice to budding engineers looking to get into this line of work would be to grow a passion for automotive – if you don’t already have one – look for hands-on work experience opportunities and study maths, physics and computer science...hard!
Dr Thomas Popham, 33
Day job: Technical specialist, self-learning car project
Education: Mechanical Engineering degree, PhD in Computer Science
Spare time: Skiing and other outdoor pursuits
"Vehicle intelligence is going to be such a big improvement – especially as cars become connected to each other and ‘the cloud’."
We’re working on research that uses machine-learning techniques to learn driver preferences. This area is interesting because it is so varied – we need electrical and mechanical engineers, computer scientists, project managers, psychologists and more. Obviously a solid educational background is important, but after that, communication, teamwork and stamina are absolutely essential. Vehicle intelligence is going to be such a big improvement – especially as cars become connected to each other and ‘the cloud’. The car industry is making some great progress in terms of CO2 performance, but I’ll be really excited to see the day when this problem is solved.
Linh Nguyen Slater, 29
Day job: Human Machine Interface specialist for self-learning car project
Education: Bachelor and Master of Science degrees
Spare time: Cooking and eating. ‘My friends call me the Iron Chef or the Vietnamese Martha Stewart’
I’m involved in developing the interfaces for artificial intelligence in the self-learning car. Engineers build the back end while I focus on the front end, the customer-facing design. I conduct user testing to ensure interfaces we design are safe, usable and delightful. I stumbled upon human factors design, also known as ergonomics, HMI or user experience, when I was studying medicine. It’s a field that combines people, engineering and design – just the thing for an artsy scientist who loves people. I cannot wait until the self-learning car is ready in the next six years. It will be the first time that machine-learning techniques will be used in a car and will also serve as a natural transition into autonomous driving.
John Pepperell, 49
Day job: Senior business and product planning manager
Education: Mechanical Engineering degree
Spare time: Running half marathons, motorcycling and bringing up four kids
At school, when everyone else was playing football, the guys I was hanging out with were into fixing old cars like Humber Sceptres, Vauxhall Vivas and Hillman Avengers. The base parts of an engine have been the same for 100 years but what has changed is some of the peripheral technology. A lot of what I do now is about electronic adaption of the engine. It needs to be great in all conditions so we have to adapt the timing and fuelling and for that you need lots of sensors and actuators. In 15 years I think there will still be conventional engines but by then hybrids will be ‘conventional’ technology and we’ll be at the front-end of fuel cell technology perhaps.