Seven Kettering University alumni advance autonomous technology with collaboration, innovation at CNXMotion

Kettering University alumni thrive on innovation, creativity, and solving problems. At CNXMotion, where a quarter of the team is made up of Kettering alumni, they live and work by that model.  

Located in Grand Blanc, Michigan, CNXMotion is founded from collaboration between two powerhouse mobility companies. In 2017, Nexteer Automotive and Continental introduced CNXMotion, their joint venture focused on the advancement of motion control systems and actuator components for automated driving. Out of its 27 staff members, seven of them were educated at Kettering.   

CNXMotion advances autonomous technology at Kettering University's GM Mobility Research Center.
Scott Sanford showcases CNXMotion's autonomous
technology at Kettering's GM Mobility Research Center.

They are working to break molds and push barriers in the mobility industry, including advances in autonomous technology.

“Big companies, they can’t move fast. That’s our job here, to get out there, try something, and fail. And then you keep trying new things,” said Matt Hagans ‘94, Controller and Business Development Manager at CNXMotion. “It’s really about different disciplines coming together and getting the job done. It’s such a unique experience. There is a lot of experience and very talented people.”

Collaboration is key to the work that CNXMotion does. It’s well balanced with skills and expertise from everyone on the team. Even the Kettering alumni are a balanced mix from both Nexteer and Continental. Three alumni — Chris Sommer ‘18, Scott Sanford ‘00, and Patrick Steele ‘08 — joined CNXMotion from Nexteer. Four alumni — Emmanuel Garcia ‘89, Hagans, Nick Mawhinney ‘00, and Jason Schwegler ‘96 — joined from Continental.

“Kettering University has always focused on the core of automotive design and research. It has prepared its students to take on the challenges the world will face to become fully autonomous on the roads,” said Mawhinney, Project Engineering Manager at CNXMotion. “It only makes sense that CNXMotion would benefit and utilize the talents started at Kettering to meet the needs for a safe and smooth Automated Driving future.”

The alumni’s time at the University has spanned across many of its names — GMI, GMI EMI, and Kettering University. All of them know the importance of what their education meant for them. The value of their education taught them hard work, out-of-the box thinking, and innovative solutions.

“I think we are all looking for excitement,” said Scott Sanford, Motion Controls Engineer at CNXMotion. “You want to drive the car? You want to try something different in your career? This is your chance. Those opportunities exist here. Start now. There is heavy collaboration between everyone on the team.”

CNXMotion is described as the breakthrough venture that is accelerating trusted motion control through collaboration. The work the team does is fast paced, always changing, and perfect for anyone ready for a challenge.

CNXMotion has spent nearly a year at Kettering University’s GM Mobility Research Center testing new algorithms for their autonomous software. The facility gives them real world situations in a controlled, safe environment. The facility allows them to bring their research to life. The various features like the testing pad, handling loops, and a broad range of speeds and elevations are key to their research.

CNXMotion’s research focuses on complex motion control algorithms, programming systems, human machine interface clusters, and how it all works together to meet their goals and visions for their autonomous systems.  

CNXMotion is advancing autonomous technology at Kettering University's Mobility Research Center
CNXMotion tests autonomous technology at Kettering
University's GM Mobility Research Center.

“The uniqueness of CNXMotion lies in its mission statement, ‘Accelerating trusted motion control through collaboration.’ Motion control has been overlooked from the beginning when discussing automated driving,” Mawhinney said. “At CNXMotion, we bring the wealth of steering knowledge from Nexteer and brake expertise from Continental into one location with a unique goal: to perfect motion control in the vehicle. We provide the safety net and the comfort factor for automated driving.”

Kettering’s Mobility Research Center is where innovation comes alive. The team at CNXMotion knows it’s important to include students and their wealth of knowledge and creativity.

“Having students from Kettering brings a new perspective,” Sanford said. “Bringing the students to the forefront and getting them into our vehicles will in turn challenge us in new ways.”

CNXMotion will be bringing on their first round of Kettering co-op students this fall. They understand the value of a Kettering education and believe it can all help a venture company like theirs excel.

In fact, on a bookshelf in the office are many Kettering textbooks the team still uses today.

“This is their chance to break the mold, try new things, push the limits, and do what the larger companies don’t have time to do,” Mawhinney said. “CNXMotion is preparing students for movement and flexibility and the future of mobility.”

The team is a small, innovative group. Each person has to step up in unexpected ways to get the job done. CNXMotion sets up an environment to work hard and be innovative, but also an environment to blow off steam and think, Mawhinney said.

“Since I have started this job, I have revisited all of my Kettering textbooks that were important to me,” Sanford said. “It’s a whole new level of being technically challenged.”