Jobs in cars. Is there anything better? We certainly never forget how lucky we are to be paid to write and breathe 4×4, 24/7, 365. But imagine being someone whose job is to build vehicles from scratch, using the most futuristic automotive technology of all time. Well, we had the chance to play the 5 questions game with some of these people in the form of Toyota engineers, who gave us the scoop on the innovations they like in vehicles (including those who are not Toyota brands), who owns a Jeep, and what they do exactly for a living (note: STEM fans).
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Aaron Weidenaar, engineer (technical design chassis)
Tasks: development of bearings and shock absorbers.
Coolest equipment / technology to get things done: access to the prototype development building and the Toyota Collaborative Benchmarking Center are the coolest. First of all, the PD building allows you to go and see how your parts are manufactured / assembled on a mini production line. TCBC allows all engineers to see how competition solves problems.
Neat technologies or their own: levers in vehicles. The levers are mechanical, simple and reliable. If there is a problem with the mechanism attached to the lever, customers can get a clue with a physical return of the lever. Transfer box stuck? The lever is stuck. Transmission vibrations? The gear lever vibrates. HVAC controls do not work? You understand. They are heavy and reputed to be “old fashioned” by many, but I am a big fan of the mechanical connection to the vehicle. It is a good reminder of the state of the mechanical vehicles at the end of the day.
I am currently looking at, reading or tackling a project: I bought my 2004 Land Cruiser in January. He has 300,000 miles on it. I fix some odds and ends and interview with a fine tooth comb.
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Shannon Wrobel, Senior Engineer
Functions: Calibration of the driving of a hybrid vehicle by software development, tests, analysis and confirmation.
Coolest equipment / technology to get things done: vehicle software: there are endless possibilities with vehicle software development, including logic development and setting value to control vehicle operation. It’s fascinating!
Neat technologies or theirs: I think EV technology is really reaching new heights. I had the opportunity to drive a Tesla Model X P100D in Ludicrous mode, and as a roller coaster enthusiast, it was incredible! I’m really interested to see how future EV trucks, such as Rivian R1T and Bollinger B2, work on and off the road.
Currently watching, reading or tackling as a project: I am working to prepare my Toyota MR2 Spyder for the summer cruise (once the COVID-19 issues are gone). I got it last year with a ticking of the engine, so I did a few checks: changed the fluids, checked the compression, and finally replaced the bearings on the engine rod to fix the problem. Now it works smoothly to clean the interior and perform general maintenance. Plus, in my spare time, I enjoyed the relentless drama of Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix.
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Dan Rich, Senior Director, Fuel Cell Development, Gardena Operation Support
Duties: I manage a group of technicians who is responsible for measuring emissions for Toyota vehicles as well as other projects that our calibration group has for the development of emissions. I am also responsible for updating our facilities and providing tools and equipment to all of our technicians and engineers.
Coolest equipment / technology to get things done: fuel cell / hydrogen technology is very cool. I have always been passionate about fossil fuels, but I also know that we need a renewable energy source if we want mobility in the future. I also enjoy working with our chassis dynos and making sure they are maintained and upgraded so that we can measure the smallest amount of exhaust to keep our cars and trucks running clean for many years.
First 4×4 (or car or truck): My very first 4×4 was a 1972 Dodge Power Wagon with a step bed, high lift and “huge” 31 inch tires, but the one that really made an impression was a Toyota Land from 1975 Cruiser 40 series before they got cool. I was looking for a Jeep CJ-5 in 1981 when I came across this Land Cruiser and I never looked back. Since then, I have owned a Toyota 4×4. I have owned many Toyota 4x4s, including almost all Land Cruiser and Hilux or Tacoma series. I briefly owned a 1996 Land Rover Discovery, but I was never able to take it off-road because it was still broken!
Neat technologies or theirs: I think the cameras are probably the most useful feature I have used, and now with multiple angles, front, side and even “disappearing” cameras, I must think that they are the new standard in what customers will expect from all manufacturers. Being able to operate all the cameras on demand on a trail would be very cool.
Currently watching, reading or tackling as a project: one of my favorite YouTube channels is Action 4WD from Australia with Shaun [Whale] and Graham [Cahill]. These guys are making big vehicle modifications, hitting incredible trails, and the action is still going on, no drama fabricated, just real four-wheeled situations and real action. As far as projects go, my ’95 Land Cruiser 80 series is still a work in progress, suitable for comfortable long-term trips in the hinterland. The compressor and the air tank on board and the use of hidden storage were my last projects.
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Skylar Watson, R&D engineer Toyota Motor North America
Job Duties: I work in a department that has many responsibilities in vehicle development. Part of our work focuses on the control of prototype vehicles before the launch of the vehicle. We become the first customers of the vehicle. This involves placing the vehicle in customer scenes that reflect the intended use of that vehicle. Think of the minivan for long journeys and trucks for off-road, each target customer uses the vehicle in a unique way. It is our job to detect items that could be considered a problem for a customer, big or small.
The coolest equipment / technology to get things done: I believe the coolest equipment / technology we can use are the vehicles themselves, cop-out answer I know. Let me explain. The reliability and reliability of Toyota really amazes me, both as an engineer and as a customer. A concrete example occurred this winter; we parked a vehicle outside overnight at temperatures of -30 ° C or below for more than 12 hours. In the morning, the vehicle started well, drove smoothly and all the features and accessories worked unscathed. Pretty impressive technology if you ask me.
First 4×4 (or car or truck): My first vehicle was a 1994 Jeep Wrangler YJ, which I still have today.
Neat technologies or theirs: I like the window ventilation function before we find on older vehicles. I thought it was a pretty impressive way to breathe fresh air in the cabin without committing to having the window down completely. I know that OEMs have moved away from this type of simple design for more technology, but sometimes the simple things in life make you happy!
Watch, read or tackle as a project right now: it would be the endless project of my daily driver, a 2014 MGM Toyota Tacoma. It’s a fun platform on which a truck can be creative. I made a custom bed support for the RTT and have a front / rear bumper design in progress. The best part of this project will be in the future when my younger son can help more. All-terrain vehicles are a way for us to have a good time together, whether sitting indoors, working on it or talking.
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Aaron Steinhilb, Senior Engineer, Pedestrian Protection for Vehicle Performance
Functions: We assess injuries that occur to pedestrians when struck by a vehicle. We are developing structures that primarily reduce the risk and severity of head and leg injuries.
Coolest equipment / technology to get things done: we use a flexible pedestrian legform. It is a highly instrumented and calibrated dummy leg that we pull at 40 km / h at the front of each vehicle to understand injuries to the leg bones and knee ligaments.
First 4×4 (or car or truck): My first real 4×4 was a CJ-5 from 1978. I rebuilt everything in the transmission, added ARB lockers, rebuilt the transfer case with 4: 1 gears, made a vest bulletproof and added an OME lift.
Neat technologies or their own: pedestrian protection generally pushes the front of the vehicle forward and down (reducing the approach angle) and makes recovery hooks mounted at the front almost impossible. Because of all these things, I would like to see the adaptable suspensions of “luxury” vehicles (suspension height and adaptive damping) like on the Mercedes G-Wagon spread to smaller trucks and SUVs.
Currently, I watch, I read or I tackle a project: I build a Jeep TJ 2004; the plan is to design a new suspension starting with Dana 60 axles, a bulletproof vest and a full safety cage. I am currently riding with my 2016 GX460. It is a real sleeper, and its capabilities constantly impress me. I love the looks I get when it’s twisted on the trails.
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Nick Ruark, Senior Engineering Manager Chassis
Tasks: Management of a group responsible for the development of suspension and axle components for body vehicles on Toyota chassis.
Coolest equipment / technology to get things done: FEA. I just like adjusting the shape of a piece to improve the resistance.
Neat technologies or their own: the independent Jaguar rear suspension (type e and many others), a very simple design that was unique in the time when most vehicles had solid rear axles. (I have a modified version under a 1963 Ford Falcon I’m working on.)
I am currently looking at, reading or tackling a project: I have a Toyota Land Cruiser 70 from 1991 that I imported from Japan, with a 1HD-FT (online six turbodiesel) from a Land Cruiser of the 80 series from Japan that I completely rebuilt and exchanged. Currently in the middle of rebuilding a winch for the front.
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