GM taps Silicon Valley tech, and culture - Metro US

GM taps Silicon Valley tech, and culture

A more-lush version of a typical industrial mall. A-type “types” bicycling madly during their lunch hours, on a network of bicycle lanes, their racing helmets barely containing their immense heads, which were actually glowing with activity.

A group of us auto scribes were in the area, to visit GM’s Advanced Technology Silicon Valley Office (ATSVO), as part of a press preview for the new Buick LaCrosse eAssist (a new, mild hybrid).

GM set up the shop about five years ago, to be the automaker’s “eyes and ears on the ground” in Silicon Valley.

It’s a small place, with a small team — about 10 scientists and business managers with various backgrounds.

The man who heads up the team, Bryon Shaw, told us that the building reflects its mandate to forge relationships with its famous Silicon Valley neighbours, like Apple, Google, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, NeuroSky, Nokia, SoundHound, MAD Maps, Digitario, and StratosAudio.

Those firms are not only known for their success, but also for their collaborative processes.

To grease the wheels of collaboration many adopt an interior design concept known as “caves and commons.”

“Common areas are where you have teams of people working together, collaboratively, so everyone knows what is going on, and you don’t have silos of information,” said Shaw.

“This leads to faster development cycles, but sometimes you need to think… Common areas are noisy. Cave areas are where you can retract into and get your hard thinking done.” (This reminds me of one of my favourite bumper stickers: “Ever stop to think and forget to start again.”)

Big Silicon Valley firms also have many, many conference rooms, which are typically booked the entire workday.

“But when you peak in, you see only one person in that room, on the phone to a globally distributed team,” noted Shaw.

“So we said how do make that work in a more space efficient way… That’s why we have these ‘phone booths’, which are conference rooms for one person.”

When ATSVO staff need to liaison with someone down the street, or across the globe, everything they need to get that done can be found in the blue booth — small desk, phone, internet connection, privacy, and good acoustics.

Not surprisingly, one focus of the team is incorporating connectivity and more electronic goodness into our vehicles.

Two of its more interesting advancements were developing Wi-Fi coverage to vehicle occupants while moving at highway speeds (not yet available in Canada), and personalized audio cues for the new Chevrolet Volt.

One concept the team is considering is a forward-looking camera on your vehicle, which can share “real time” images with your friends on Facebook.

Other than that, Shaw is not saying. Further access to his big brain requires special clearance we no got. His lips are sealed.

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