The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) World Congress is an annual event in April that draws automotive engineers from around the world to Detroit to learn about and share thoughts on new techniques and technologies.

Once again this year, Maplesoft was an active participant. This was a milestone event for us as it was the first SAE Congress where we could show off and fully demonstrate the potential of the MapleSim/Maple solution. Even in these trying times in the auto industry, our corner remains vibrant and very optimistic about the future. In no particular order, here are some highlights.

Race to Green Mobility

The theme of the Congress was “Race to Green Mobility” – anything and everything about making cars more efficient or run on new power sources were the rage. Experimental Hummers that claimed 100 miles per gallon of fuel, some of the tiniest cars one has ever seen, even devices that you strap onto your legs so that you can walk better and farther and not need that greenhouse gas producing vehicle, were part of the parade of technology. For our display, we had to settle for boring old software technology that allowed you to quickly create physical models of hybrid powertrains, and other emerging high-efficiency applications ;-)

Our first HIL demos

A highlight of the Maplesoft exhibit was a couple of interesting looking devices hooked up to laptops and on the screen were animations of cars flying out of control. Through the generosity of National Instruments and dSpace, we were able to have live demonstrations of the effectiveness of MapleSim developed models for hardware in the loop simulation. My favorite was one developed by engineer Tom Uchida who hooked up a “model predictive control” algorithm (MPC) to an NI PXI box. MPC is a technique where model equations are actually integrated into the controller giving it the smarts to predict upcoming circumstances and prepare better control responses. Having a natively symbolic modeling platform makes such innovative control applications a fair bit easier.

The economy

You can’t avoid this topic in the auto sector these days. Among all of the buzz and banter on green opportunities were questions on next steps for GM or Chrysler, fate of thousands of workers, and the general business challenges for OEMs, suppliers, and vendors. Indeed there were a few less exhibitors this year and the big players’ pavilions were a bit smaller. But I truly believe that if there is ever to be an engineering solution to the enormous environmental challenges, economic pressures can catalyze positive change faster than any government policy, or strategic plan. The best and brightest within this industry are already producing miracles and one gets the real sense that this time around the developments in high-efficiency vehicles and related societal transformations will be real, and will be permanent. And we optimists all believe that it will be positive … and fortunately there were enough of us optimists at the Congress.

Successful product reception

One of the key activities for us at the Congress was a special reception to thank customers who have helped us usher in a new era for the company and a new era for the engineering modeling community. Aside from one of the better spreads at the conference (so said most of our guests), we had a chance to mingle and I had a great time offering an exclusive preview of some of the really cool technologies that we just recently launched.


For many, a highlight was Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger who did an on-stage interview expressing his optimism for the future of green automotive technology and its potential to transform the industry and society. I personally found the other guest, Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm’s comments much more interesting. She spoke a lot about her state’s efforts to establish a new R&D infrastructure for clean energy automotive applications. She was passionate, articulate, and believable. But Arnie is still the reigning King of the green politician scene and the hoards of groupies and gawkers were a testament.

The best swag at the show!

The convention had the usual assortment of candy, pens, little note pads, and of course countless ugly tote bags. For many (so said basically all who visited our booth), the absolute best freebies at the show were the Maplesoft soft bungee rockets and the infamous rocket pen. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing an adult with several engineering degrees revert to a wide-eyed child at the sight of these little toys … but they’re not just any old toys that you’d find in a tradeshow booth. These actually have relevance to what we do. The bungee rocket is a classic example of particle or lumped mass physics, which is how we got introduced to mathematical modeling concepts. The rocket pen is a stunning example of multi-body dynamics with damping.  One day, we’ll get around to creating a proper MapleSim model for this device.

My interview

One of the highlights for me was being interviewed by Lisa Arrigo of SAE. I guess she felt that the recent attention we’ve been getting was worthy of documenting. The SAE Web site may not exactly be MTV in audience reach, but it was nice to publically comment on some of my favorite topics. Click on to see the video.

Please Wait...