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Distinguished Lecture

Designing a New Automotive DNA

Larry BurnsVice President GM Research & Development and Strategic PlanningGeneral Motors

The auto industry today stands on the threshold of a new opportunity – an opportunity that stems from a new "automotive DNA" that is enabling the reinvention of the automobile. This new DNA will replace today's mechanically driven vehicles – which are powered by internal combustion engines, energized by petroleum, and mechanically controlled – with electrically driven vehicles that are powered by electric motors, energized by electricity or hydrogen, and controlled electronically. The electrification of the vehicle and the introduction of advanced electronics and connected vehicle technologies will revolutionize how our vehicles operate, how we interact with them, and how they communicate with each other and the outside world. These new technologies will make our vehicles more sustainable in terms of energy, the environment, safety, and congestion. They will also, importantly, dramatically change how automobiles are designed and built. In this talk, Dr. Burns will highlight why the new automotive DNA will be paradigm shifting for the industry and address the design challenges and opportunities presented by the requirement for new electrical and electronics-based architectures, systems, and software for our future vehicles.
Larry Burns is vice president of General Motors Research & Development and Strategic Planning. In this post, he oversees GM's advanced technology, innovation programs, and corporate strategy. He is a member of GM's Automotive Strategy Board and Automotive Product Board.

In addition to driving innovation into today's vehicles, Burns is championing GM's "reinvention" of the automobile around advanced propulsion, electronics, telematics, and materials technologies. The goal is to realize sustainable mobility with vehicles that are aspirational and affordable.

Burns began his career in 1969 as a member of the Research & Development staff, where his research focused on transportation, logistics, and production systems. He subsequently held executive positions in several GM divisions in the areas of product program management, quality, production control, industrial engineering, and product and business planning. In May 1998, he was named a vice president of General Motors, with responsibility for R&D and Planning.

Burns holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He also has a master's degree in engineering/public policy from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University).

Burns is a member of the USCAR Operating Council and the FreedomCAR Partnership Executive Steering Committee. He serves on the board of the University of Michigan’s Automotive Research Center, the External Advisory Board for its Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, and the Scientific Advisory Board for its Engineering Research Center for Carbon-Neutral Vehicles. In addition, he is a member of the Advisory Council for the University of California Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Midwest Research Institute. Burns also sits on the board of the University of Michigan Center for Hearing Disorders and is a member of the National Advisory Group for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.

In 2000, Burns received Kettering University’s Engineering Alumni Achievement Award for his contributions to the engineering profession. In 2002, the Deafness Research Foundation recognized him with its National Campaign for Hearing Health Leadership Award. He served as National Honorary Chairman for the MATHCOUNTS Foundation during 2004 and 2005. In 2005, he was a member of a General Motors team awarded the Franz Edelman Award from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. Burns is also the recipient of the 2005 Alumni Merit Award from the University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering Department. In 2007, he received the ASM International Medal for the Advancement of Research and the Society of Plastics Engineers Global Engineering Leadership Award.

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