Before he joined Visteon's advanced product design team in 2011, Entsminger, 34, earned his software chops as a video game developer and special effects editor for the movie industry.
Now, he's working on a new graphic display for a concept cockpit that may, among other things, feature 3-D images, perhaps even holograms.
At this early stage, Visteon is cagey about the type of data that might be displayed, or whether the company will display it at the International CES in January in Las Vegas.
In the meantime, Entsminger will continue to scout the consumer electronics industry for new technology and find new uses for it. "We dream up cool stuff, and then the sales staff pitches it to the automakers," he said.
The trick is to make infotainment data available to the motorist without distracting him with a string of menus on the center console screen, Entsminger says. To create intuitive controls, Entsminger is developing a system that responds to hand gestures, voice commands and head-tracking technology.
If the motorist looks at the radio, for example, the computer awaits instructions for an audio selection. "The goal is to get rid of [long] menus," Entsminger said. "You don't want to create a whole menu of commands."
Before he joined Visteon, Entsminger ran his own Dallas-based video game company, Perpetual FX Creative.
Entsminger developed expertise in gesture control when he designed the "Alien Monster Bowling League" game for Nintendo. But his company ran out of money in 2010 when it produced an ill-fated rodeo game for a couple of Texas oilmen.
It was a tricky job. How, for example, do you simulate a lasso flying through the air?
Sony eventually shut down that project, and Entsminger moved back to Detroit -- where he had grown up -- with his fiancée. After a chance encounter with a Visteon executive at a party, Entsminger joined the company.
While infotainment accounts for the lion's share of a vehicle's software, collision avoidance generates the second biggest chunk of code.
Because it's a safety technology, some automakers prefer to develop key portions of the software in-house. "BMW adds a lot of software integration in the final stages, much more so than Kia, which buys black boxes," Juliussen said. "Other companies are in between."
But even companies such as BMW, Volvo and Audi don't write all their software. Which is why more than 70 percent of chipmaker Nvidia's 9,500 employees are engineers -- most of them software developers.
One of them is Mike Houston, a 36-year-old senior software engineer who helped "train" Nvidia's Tegra X1 graphics chip, which will power future collision avoidance systems.
Houston, who received his Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University, is an expert in "deep neural networks" that help computers identify previously unseen objects. Facebook used this technology to develop facial recognition software, and now Houston is helping adapt it for collision avoidance.
For autonomous vehicles, the biggest problem on city streets is a vehicle or object that the computer can't identify and thus cannot anticipate. The solution: Let each vehicle consult a central supercomputer, which identifies the obstacle by analyzing millions of images transmitted from other cars.
To evaluate the chip's capability, Houston and his team drove six test vehicles around Santa Clara, Calif., for a couple of weeks in November and December. Their task: Develop algorithms to let the computer distinguish different types of vehicles.
The team collected 40 hours of video of cars, then tagged them -- sports car, SUV, police car, fire truck -- and fed them to the computer. Then the computer learned how to identify them even if they were partially obscured.