Just imagine what we will do

  • 24-Nov-2008 03:51 EST

On a recent Thursday evening, I had the privilege of participating in a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the naming of Pittsburgh, PA.

The room was filled with business executives and community leaders of Pittsburgh as well as Pennsylvania’s Governor and other state government officials. The purpose of the evening was to celebrate and recapitulate what the City of Pittsburgh had accomplished over the last 14 months throughout the year-long celebration.

It was an impressive list of accomplishments. An aggressive set of goals had been established and a strategic plan had been put in place to ensure that the myriad activities, the thousands of volunteers, and the time and financial commitments of all involved were focused. The awe-inspiring success of the effort reflected the outstanding leadership capabilities of the Chair, Vice Chair, and the Board of Directors.

What intrigued me most, though, was the slogan that inspired thousands of volunteers, shaped their activities, and provided a future-oriented purpose for the entire celebration. The slogan: “Imagine what you can do here.”

As I drove home that evening and to work the next day, the words of that slogan resonated with the optimism that Jim Press, Vice Chairman of Chrysler, used at a recent gathering of engineers during Convergence 2008 in Detroit.

Imagination truly is a historical cornerstone of the mobility industry.

Imagine a vehicle that propels itself. Imagine a network of autonomous heavy-equipment vehicles working together in an open-pit mine. Imagine an airplane that travels at supersonic speed. Imagine a combine that uses satellite navigation to guide it through the fields.

At one point in time, these were just crazy fantasies. Today, they are very much a part of our reality.

And what are the vehicles and products that are being imagined today? Where will today’s dreams take us?

How about a self-navigating, emissions-free automobile; or a convoy of trucks that is led by a single driver while the other trucks follow autonomously behind via sensing technology; or perhaps even hypersonic aircraft that can safely transport passengers from New York to Tokyo in two hours?

These dreams and these imaginations are what propel us as a society into the future.

Also, they help transcend and overcome challenging times like we face today. While such times can strike paralyzing fear into many, an unbridled imagination can lift us out of such doldrums and help to create a new economy.

We can wish for the days when things were better and when economic times had a rosier tint. Or, we can meet these challenges head on; we can imagine what is possible and then make it happen. That is what engineers do—we make the future happen.

Emily Dickinson once wrote, “The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.” Those words are evermore true today when describing the mobility engineering profession.

As always, I welcome your feedback and constructive input to this topic and any other issues on your mind. Please feel free to e-mail me at focus@sae.org.

David L. Schutt, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, SAE International

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