It's appropriate to recognize how important engineering is to the automobile industry. Engineering touches every aspect of the vehicle, from design to development to manufacturing.

Not that long ago, just a few people had heard about computers, and even fewer had any idea of how important computers would become to safe, efficient vehicle operation. Even now we have just started to understand how many more applications will become possible for the computer and the automobile.

This week, SAE International has its annual congress and exhibition in Detroit to share the challenges and triumphs in vehicle engineering. It's always an interesting and exciting time when hundreds of technical papers about emerging technologies are delivered in just a few short days.

As the primary society of automotive engineers, SAE has been a mainstay of the automobile business, and I can't think of another organization that has had as great an impact on the manufacturing of automobiles. It's an organization that touches the industry in nearly every country.

Governments around the world throw challenges at the automobile industry as fast as ever, and engineers must attack and solve those problems.

In everything from environmental concerns to motorsports, engineers have been front and center to confront the challenges facing this industry and forge the successes.

Eventually, governments might even ratchet up their regulation of automobiles, which will mean new challenges for engineers. For example, it doesn't seem that long ago that France stood out as the only country that mandated yellow headlights. Today, LED technology has moved the industry much closer to a single, uniform headlight standard, although Audi still has some issues in the United States.

SAE is critically important. And although its membership encompasses more than automotive engineers, that remains the most important aspect of the group.

This week is important for the automobile industry. There will be lots of opportunities for manufacturers and suppliers to interact with government officials -- who ought to listen closely to the opinions of automotive engineers.

It's a busy week but one of the most significant ones of the year. We wish SAE another successful meeting in Detroit.

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