Electrical and mechanical engineering are blurring together in the increasingly electrical world of automotive. Whether you engineer automotive systems or you’re simply a car fanatic, this episode is for you.
Everybody knows cars are becoming more like computers than mechanical devices. Few know this better than Mark Allen, Global Vehicle Chief Engineer at GM, a company that’s been defining the American automotive business for a century. As an engineer who is also a car nut raised in the heart of American automotive manufacturing, Mark has a long view on the history and challenges of vehicle design.
The engineering that goes into making modern cars has changed enormously, to the point that Mark claims there are few purely mechanical systems left as electromechanical systems take over. This trend has also resulted in a blending of mechanical and electrical engineering tasks and skill sets, to the point that Mark says they barely distinguish between the two disciplines on the job. But, no matter what field they hail from, he says, engineers will never stop perfecting their craft, which is why the automotive industry has the performance and safety it does today.
In this episode of Moore’s Lobby, catch conversation between Daniel and Mark about:
- How new technologies like backup cams evolve from novelties to luxuries to expected to mandated
- The cost of electronics in modern cars (and why that’s harder to quantify than you might think)
- Designing cars vs. designing smartphones and how durability impacts product lifespan
Mark’s pure love of automotive carries through in this episode as he explains the lofty goals of the automotive industry, the difference having an EE CEO can make, and the (sometimes literal) highs and lows of vehicle testing.
A Big Thank You to This Episode's Sponsor
Meet Mark Allen
Mark Allen was all but destined to work in automotive. Raised in Warren, Michigan, the birthplace of American automotive, he got his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on automotive. Before he was even out of school, he worked a co-op with General Motors through GMI Engineering and Management Institute (now Kettering University) with a thesis on small block Chevy V8 engine efficiency. He joined GM's ranks formally upon graduation as a Staff Project Engineer in engine calibration in their Powertrain division.
While he would also later attain a Master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in business and engineering management, he had found his place at GM, where he's worked for 36 years.
Allen has run the gamut of automotive systems in his career: hybrid technologies, OBD diagnostics, engine design and diagnostics, fuel economy, aerodynamics, strategic technology innovation, powertrain mount systems, and more. He's worked in Vehicle Integration and Opel Engineering with GM Europe.
Allen has also served as Director of Energy, Mass, and Aerodynamics and later as the Director of PT Integration Design Hardware. In recent years, he has been the Global Vehicle Chief Engineer for Chevrolet (the Traverse, Blazer, and Equinox,) GMC/Holden (the Acadia and Terrain), and Buick (Enclave and Envision).
In his spare time, Allen loves fitness, amateur car racing, golf, and skiing. He also serves as a Boy Scout leader and is the resident "Prop Dad" for his daughter’s dance company.