“We eat, sleep and breathe these critical areas”
Tim Dawkins is Autonomous Car Specialist North America at automotive engineering consultancy SBD Automotive. He will be speaking at AutoSens Detroit in May, exploring topics around autonomous vehicles.
As winter falls away and spring blooms across the northern hemisphere, we caught up with Tim as he starts his preparation for speaking at our inaugural US event.
It seems everyone is jumping on the autonomous vehicle consulting bandwagon, how is SBD Automotive different?
It may seem so these days, but SBD Automotive have been established in automotive technology for over 20 years. One of our greatest differentiators is our specialism – we only focus on autonomous vehicles, connected car technologies and vehicle security – and we very much eat, sleep and breathe these critical areas.
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Our autonomous car consulting evolved out of our ADAS research practice. We have a great collective expertise in our team including people from a wide range of areas in the industry, with a wealth of experience in these technologies.
And as with everything we do, all our recommendations are grounded in our engineering knowledge and we always strive to bring actionable insights to our clients.
You’ve been at SBD for five years now, what’s it like?
It’s a tremendous experience to be part of the SBD team, there’s truly nothing else like it. The combination of innovative minds and technology expertise in house is excellent, and we get the opportunity to work with some of the biggest and best names in the industry on cutting edge products and initiatives, all over the world.
You’re an engineer who’s become an analyst – what advantages does that background bring?
I like to think that my engineering background keeps me grounded in my work – the analytical approach learned in mechanical engineering is very valuable in many things that we do, from strategic workshops to technical research, everything must be realistic and relevant to the technology, the products and the real world.
You’re a Brit by birth but live in Michigan now, what are your highlights for visitors?
When I first arrived I was pleasantly surprised at the craft beer scene that exists in Michigan, so for me, a trip to Grand Rapids to visit some breweries is a must.
Detroit is also a great city to explore and really get to know, there’s so much culture here.
How do you keep your hand in with engineering – any mechanical love affairs we should know about?
You’d be surprised how technical the projects we work on can get – I’ve spent just as much time interpreting wiring diagrams as I have conducting consumer research.
Outside of my work I have an old Porsche which usually keeps me busy solving mechanical problems!
Outside of work, are you doing any courses at the moment?
I’m currently working towards getting a PMP Certification, and I frequently take shorter professional development courses delivered through FutureLearn – I completed a certification in Business Process Management just a few weeks ago.
What’s the most exciting activity you’d like to be involved with happening in the industry right now?
- Seeing in the dark – unique deep learning approach puts finalist Algolux in reach of the 2018 AutoSens “Software Innovation” Award ~ 15 August 18
- Robust and reliable localisation required for autonomous driving ~ 15 August 18
- The autonomous world is evolving and Velodyne will be a part of it ~ 14 August 18
Something I’m working on tomorrow, which of course I can’t tell you about! But it does involve AI.
Tell us about your military background
I worked as a Driver in the Royal Logistics Corps with the Territorial Army (now called the Army Reserve), and spent a lot of time doing combat service support operations. Ironically, this type of logistics role is something that autonomous vehicles could bolster or eventually replace in combat theatres. It really helps me keep an eye on innovations in autonomous vehicles coming from the defence industry.
What are you looking forward to at AutoSens?
It’s great to see such a focused technical program bring together industry leaders to explore challenges in a collaborative setting – I’m sure we’ll all learn a lot. I’m also really looking forward to attending a conference at the M1 Concourse – it makes a refreshing change from the same old hotel ballrooms!