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Inside VW's expanding SILICON VALLEY LAB

  • Magazine Article
  • 19AUTP09_04
Published September 01, 2019 by SAE International in United States
  • English

The pioneering California innovation hub enters its third decade on a new wave of innovation.

On July 1, Volkswagen renamed its Silicon Valley outpost. The former Electronics Research Lab (ERL) based in Belmont, Calif., is now the Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC). In its 20-year history, the list of the center's achievements includes winning the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, the first use of Google Earth and predictive models in vehicle navigation and approximately 175 patents related mostly to autonomous driving and connected mobility. The engineers and social scientists in Belmont are in the business of cracking tough nuts - but none as hard as the entrenched mindset of auto-industry veterans resistant to change.

A day after the official renaming, VW gave a tour to a small group of media including Automotive Engineering. There we met Brian Lathrop, senior principal scientist, who joined then-ERL in 2004 as a freshly minted Ph.D in cognitive psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.