Thought Leadership

Key skills to design future car travel experiences

By Ed Bernardon

What does the engineering team look like that will create the experiences that future cars will deliver?

It will take a diverse set of OEMs and suppliers, from multiple industries like textiles and electronics, and a set of engineers with all backgrounds and experiences – working together to create these future car travel experiences.

It’s been my privilege to gain insight from Paige Kassalen, a future of mobility market analyst at Covestro, a global producer of advanced polymers and high-performance plastics. Throughout our conversation, Paige and I have talked about how future interiors could look, customized travel experiencesmaterials’ role in these experiences, and the first steps to unparalleled travel experiences that align with people’s wants and needs.

As we conclude our discussion on these interiors, we focus on the engineering challenges companies will face as they reach a new paradigm of unlimited possibilities in what it means to travel in a car. We also discuss the need for visionary engineering, and diversity, to achieve a new way to travel ― beyond just transportation ― via interior sights, sounds, living spaces, entertainment and more. These visionary engineers will play a critical role in conceptualizing and developing these new experiences.

Edward Bernardon: There was an interesting article you posted called, “The Most Valuable Lessons I Ever Learned.” You talk about working on a project being 50 percent planning and 50 percent influence. You point out the importance of not only planning, but the need to motivate people to understand the project and to take action. 

If you could magically motivate engineers and consumers to do something to get ready for this future of interiors and experiences in autonomous cars, what would that be? 

Paige Kassalen: That’s a great question, and it’s hard to answer. 

It would be to have them reach out to the different people throughout their value chain and start visualizing the big picture and thinking beyond just the hardware and software. Then conceptualizing how all of these various components, materials and electronics will come together, and start working on it now, because people will come to us in five years and say, “Hey, we need this tomorrow.” That’s going to be too late because it takes years to develop new materials. Start executing that level of collaboration that’s needed to be successful in the future of mobility right now. 

Edward Bernardon: You not only enjoy your work, but you are incredibly passionate about it. Another thing you’re passionate about is encouraging women to take careers in engineering.

As a final question, what would you say to young women who are considering a career in engineering? What would you say to try and build that excitement in the next generation of women who are considering a career as an engineer?

Paige Kassalen: I think this is probably one of the coolest times to obtain a degree in engineering. Currently, the changes taking place in the automotive industry are happening rapidly. We’re developing mobility solutions for everyone.

Also, to ensure that these solutions are developed for everyone, we need to have a very diverse group of people in those rooms, having the discussions about what is needed. That goes for having more women give their input on what type of things that they need in their vehicle ― what type of connectivity? Included in this diversity are people that might be in wheelchairs. We need their input regarding what types of mobility solutions they need. Also, we need input from diverse age groups.

We also need input from different parts of the world, because that’s crucial to developing this level of technology. I am learning more each day by talking to diverse groups of people. I try to translate that into my work. In addition, it’s an amazing opportunity for somebody, especially a young woman, to become an engineer and be included at the table as part of these discussions.

Future car travel experience.jpgWill this kind of interior become history as autonomous vehicles hit the road? More than likely – yes.

Final thoughts on future car travel experiences

Throughout this series, we’ve focused on many positive features that engineering will play in the future of car travel experiences, with enhancements that increase mobility for the elderly, the young and everyone in between.

Low-to-no-cost transport will give people greater ability to go where they want and when they want to suit their educational, occupational or entertainment needs. Real estate costs will fall as people are able to live outside of cities and still take advantage of the recreational, educational and cultural benefits often found downtown.

Eventually, we may even accept the premise of giving up the wheel, and explain to our grandchildren why we even put up with a risky, unsafe world in which humans drove cars rather than reliable robots.

In any case, it’s time to get ready for a change in how we think about transportation, as well as the myriad of interior experiences that travel will entail in the near future.

This concludes our series on autonomous vehicle interiors with Paige Kassalen, of Covestro. Special thanks to Paige for her time and her insight. 

About the author
Edward Bernardon is vice president of strategic automotive initiatives for the Specialized Engineering Software business segment of Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of the Siemens Industry Automation Division. Bernardon joined the company when Siemens acquired Vistagy, Inc. in December, 2011. During his 17 year tenure with Vistagy, Bernardon assumed the roles of vice president of sales, and later business development for all specialized engineering software products. Prior to Vistagy, Bernardon directed the Automation and Design Technology Group at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, formerly the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed new manufacturing processes, automated equipment and complementary design software tools. Bernardon received an engineering degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, and later received an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Butler University. He also holds numerous patents in the area of automated manufacturing systems, robotics and laser technologies.

Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at