Siddartha Khastgir is Principal Engineer at WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group), part of the University of Warwick, where he leads research into verification & validation of driverless car technology. Siddartha has won many awards for his research contributions to the automotive industry all over the world, and in 2018 was included in Forbes’ list of ‘30 Under 30’ for Industry in Europe.
Here he tells us how he got interested in Electronics and what he’s excited about for the future of the industry…
During my childhood days, I had a hobby of collecting miniature cars. While growing up in the late 90s in India, I stumbled across car racing (a.k.a. Formula 1) on television. Two things about it caught my eye: firstly, their speed, and secondly, they didn’t look like any of the cars from my collection! Gradually, this hobby turned into a passion to learn more about cars. The pre-raceday programme where they spoke about the technology in the Formula 1 cars was as interesting to me as the race itself. Inspired by this I took up engineering at IIT Kharagpur, founded and led a team to make the first formula-style car at IIT.
In today’s world, electronics is in everything which makes our life easier. Be it a mobile phone or a car or a laptop or even a coffee machine! Even going to the moon requires electronics… Electronics is one of the building blocks of our lives. I graduated as a mechanical engineer but quickly realised while working in the industry that I need to retrain myself with the knowledge of Electronics, as it was everywhere. Thanks to my brilliant colleagues and the internet, today, I am a mix of Mechanical, Electronics and Computer Science Engineer (I think!). And everything I do requires a diverse range of skills, making people’s live simpler – and that is the exciting bit!
One of the best things about my job is working on an idea and to see it come to realisation. Ideas alone can’t change the world, but coupled with their implementation, they can. Best part is when I work on ideas which will change our future for the better. I am very fortunate to be working on driverless car technology at WMG, University of Warwick, along with a team of talented engineers, and collaborating with teams both nationally and internationally. Every day is different. Every day I learn something new! That is exciting…
The sheer speed at which technology in the Electronics industry is developing today excites me a lot. Ten years back when I was in university, a 128Mb USB-drive was a prized possession. Today, a 1Gb USB drive is a normal thing – better still, everything is in the ‘cloud’. With knowledge being freely available through online courses and the internet, we are redefining what is possible in Electronics on a daily basis. I feel very fortunate to be living in this time of super-fast development and being a part of this fascinating industry.
The next big trend in technology would be to make our world connected, in every aspect. It has already started with our smart phones and smart homes. Next step would be to take it to another level of connecting cars, offices, homes, schools, calendars, etc. Imagine a world where your home knows when you will be arriving and keeps it heated for you. Or your car knows you are running late due to meetings and picks up your children from school in driverless mode and drops them at home. Not only will it increase efficiency but also safety (by preventing accidents). However, one big challenge we have as engineers and legislators is to ensure privacy and cybersecurity. A secure connected world would have huge benefits and this is the utopian dream we should aim for.
Find out more about Siddartha here, and watch his 2018 TED talk, ‘How safe does a driverless car need to be?’ below.