There was an old story about a U.S. Supreme Court justice – it may have been the late Hugo Black – who once said that when he picked up a newspaper, he went to the sports pages first. The old jurist preferred to start his day reading about the accomplishments of humanity, not its myriad failings. In that spirit, we happily present the story of Professor Taehyun Shim and the innovation he developed that’s now in volume production at the Ford Motor Company for its line of pickups.
Before we discuss what Dr. Shim did, let’s talk about the guy on the left in this photo. He’s Ed Krause, Ford’s manager for external alliance, whose job description basically involves finding scientists and other brainy types out in the wider world whose knowledge and practices can benefit Ford in its product development. That usually involves direct collaboration with universities, and Krause estimates that he’s oversee about 1,900 collaborative projects in his 19 years on the job. A professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dr. Shim had worked on a number of Ford projects with Krause before doing the research that made Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist possible. His application-driven research at Ford’s behest led to his creating the original control algorithms that allowed the company’s trailer-backing driver assist to exist and function. As built by Ford, the system allows a driver to enter the dimensions of his trailer once, engage Reverse, push a button on the dash, gently modulate the accelerator and point the vehicle with a knob, while the software directs the backing for you. Krause and Dr. Shim are examining one of the system’s control modules in the photo. I’ve always been fond of saying that cars are nothing but metal, glass and rubber. It takes people to create them and make them go. Here’s a great example of what I mean by that.