If you're a young, ambitious automotive engineer, infotainment is the place to be.
Every automaker is racing to add features, but the grizzled veterans don't know what to do, so they turn to younger engineers such as David Anderson.
As an engineering student at Purdue, Anderson lined up an internship in 1999 with Visteon, which asked him to help design a user interface for a navigation system for Ford Motor Co.
"I was a 19-year-old kid at the time," he recalled. "I didn't even have a degree. But there was so much opportunity because no one knew what they were doing. They were looking for people to roll up their sleeves and fix things."
Anderson's team cobbled together a product that integrated vehicle navigation, voice recognition and a radio into one box. At the time, that was a new and unconventional approach.
The system subsequently was installed in the Ford Mondeo, Escape and Lincoln Navigator.
"Each of those features had its own software and its own processor," Anderson said. "We were really the first team to put our arms around it and integrate it."
The project turned out well. Anderson filed his first patent at age 21, and Visteon hired him full time after he earned his degree in electrical engineering.
In 2003, Anderson snagged a job at Sirius Satellite Radio, where he helped develop a digital receiver.
And after two subsequent jobs with other infotainment suppliers, he joined Nvidia in 2011.
As Nvidia's senior manager for automotive integration, Anderson pitches automakers on the virtues of Drive CX, a digital cockpit computer that Nvidia unveiled in January.
Anderson, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., oversees a team of seven software and electrical design engineers. It's more than just a marketing job. Anderson develops features for a customer, then hands it off to Nvidia's development teams.
"I'm the guy that blocks out a solution on the whiteboard to the customer, then spells it out for Nvidia," he said.
At 35, Anderson might be considered an old war horse of the infotainment industry, but he's not likely to enjoy much leisure. Automakers have developed a sense of urgency about infotainment, perhaps realizing that the traditional five-year product cadence doesn't work anymore.
"The light bulbs turned on in a lot of senior executive minds," Anderson said. "They're all thinking, 'We've got to do something.'"
-- David Sedgwick