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Doug Patton

"Quite an honor" to be SAE President, Denso’s Doug Patton says

Cultivating future engineers and building stronger defenses against cyber attacks are the longtime SAE champion's primary goals as 2017 SAE International President.

From his elevated position with the American arm of automotive mega-supplier Denso, Doug Patton has a commanding view of the engineering landscape—and some power to help shape it.

With the added influence of the 2017 SAE International Presidency behind him, he plans to do as much as he can to help shape up what he sees as a somewhat wobbly system for producing engineers in a stream large enough to meet the expanding needs of mobility industries.

“One of my goals as president is to focus on STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] because I realize there is a lack of engineers coming through the pipeline,” said Patton, who in addition to being a Senior Director at Denso Corp. of Japan is Executive Vice President of Engineering and Chief Technical Officer at Denso International America. “We, SAE, need to make an impact on young 'pre-engineers' in grade school, in high school, and in college—cultivate them from the beginning.” Cybersecurity will be the other major focus area of his SAE presidency.

Patton's work history in two of the three mobility sectors served by SAE gives him broad perspective into the many cross-sector challenges that engineers and companies face. Before joining Denso in 1986, he worked at Caterpillar as a release engi-neer and senior market analyst. He has been an SAE Member since 1987, with a long list of volunteer stints on various SAE boards and committees over the years.

"It's quite an honor to be SAE President," he said. "When I look at who has held this position in the past, they are very distin-guished individuals—and not just in the auto sector, but also in the aero sector and the heavy-duty area. I hope I can influence other individuals to aspire to be SAE President in the future."

Regarding his cybersecurity presidential focus area, Patton said: "One of the things we can do is learn from the aerospace in-dustry, because they've already faced some of the challenges. But for ag, construction, on-highway, truck, automotive—cybersecurity is becoming more and more of a challenge. So it is important that we have standards [e.g., SAE's J3061] and methodologies and ways to protect the product. SAE can play a role in developing those, so I want to promote that activity also."

Although not one of his specific focus areas, Patton identified additive manufacturing as a cross-sector technology for which SAE standardization efforts will "drive harmony across product lines—all the way down to the service level of the product. The more standardization we have, the more cost-effective the world becomes."

Automated driving systems is a technology area in which SAE is having great impact, with its standard defining the six levels of automated-driving systems (J3016: Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driv-ing Systems) recently being incorporated into official U.S. federal policy. Patton noted that the continued development of artificial intelligence is a key tool that needs to be further developed so engineers can program automated vehicles in a way that allows them to navigate unforeseeable road situations with the same adaptability as a human driver.

Asked for his advice as to how SAE Members can maximize their association with the organization, Patton said: "Get engaged in what your passion is. Is your passion the SAE Collegiate Design Series? Get involved. Is your passion STEM education? Get involved in STEM. Is your passion making whatever product you're working on more effective for your company through stand-ardization? Get involved in some of the SAE standards activities. Find your passion, and let SAE help you explore and build on that passion."

Starting with the SAE Technical Standards Board in 2002, Patton has served on a number of boards and committees, includ-ing the SAE Board of Directors from 2007 to 2009 and the SAE Technical Standards Board from 2007 to 2010. He cites as his most rewarding activity the SAE North American International Powertrain Conference (NAIPC), of which he was one of the found-ing organizers in 2005. The annual invitation-only event brings together automotive powertrain heavyweights from automakers and suppliers to discuss the most pressing issues of the day, with the goal of strategically charting a course for powertrains in North America over the next 20 to 30 years. Patton has served continuously on the NAIPC Executive Leadership Committee since its inception.

"Doug has been a tremendous contributor to the NAIPC team over the years—and in many ways," said Dave Porreca, SAE's lead staff representative for the conference. "For example, he has been instrumental in helping us with some of the cultural is-sues and challenges that have arisen as we have sought the technical as well as the financial support of the event, particularly from Asian OEMs and suppliers. Despite his senior position and all his responsibilities at Denso, he has always made time for SAE, whether it was attending 7 a.m. meetings throughout the year or making phone calls to help recruit speakers for NAIPC."

Patton is playing a vital role in making a success of the WCX17: SAE World Congress Experience, which will be held April 4-6 in Detroit. "He has been fully supportive of the new direction we are taking WCX17 and has been instrumental in rallying contin-ued industry support," said Gretchen Stokes, SAE's lead staff representative for the event, about Patton's lead role on behalf of the event's Tier One Strategic Partner (Denso). In addition, he will serve as the moderator for the Executive Conclusion roundtable as part of the event's Leadership Summit featuring leading chief technical officers and industry experts.

Patrick Ponticel
Editor, SAE Member Magazines