Story motivates LHP executive’s interest in self-driving cars

LHP Engineering Solutions sees a great business opportunity in the emerging field of autonomous — also known as self-driving — cars, but it’s a personal motivation that is shifting those plans into a higher gear.

Columbus North High School basketball star Josh Speidel, who has a scholarship to play for the University of Vermont, was involved in a traffic accident Feb. 1 as he attempted to drive across U.S. 31 near Taylorsville. Speidel never saw an oncoming vehicle. He suffered serious head and other bodily injuries, was in a medically induced coma and has had to relearn how to walk and talk. It’s been a long, difficult challenge with more work required.

The incident hit David Glass hard.

The CEO of Columbus-based LHP Engineering Solutions coached Speidel in youth baseball. Glass’ son, Christian, was a teammate of Speidel’s in baseball and on North’s basketball team.

“Josh, I feel like he is one of my own kids. I was coaching him when he was 8 years old, participating in sports together. He’s just an unbelievable kid,” Glass said.

During discussions with Speidel’s parents, Dave and Lisa, while visiting Josh in the hospital a week after the crash, the topic of crash-avoidance technology arose. That planted the seed of an idea in Glass’ mind.

Glass made the idea public Sept. 10 during a company rebranding kickoff at The Commons. Glass told of the company’s plans to get actively involved in the emerging field so that future accident victims shouldn’t have to endure what Speidel has.

“What happened to Josh does not need to happen based on the technology that exists today,” Glass said.

Autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings, interpret information and navigate paths and obstacles with technology such as global positioning systems, lasers and computer vision. Traction control, lane control and self-parking technology are examples of advances made in the autonomous vehicle field over the past 20 years, and are present in passenger vehicles.

“Cars can be aware of each other on the road and they can start pumping the brakes and start taking control of braking, and even potentially steering,” Glass said.

The thread that connects LHP to autonomous cars is embedded control systems and telematics, important parts of LHP’s business.

An embedded system is a special-purpose computer that is encapsulated by the device it controls. Embedded systems are found in motor vehicles, farm machinery and medical devices, for example. A telematic system collects and transmits data about real-time performance, such as fuel economy of an engine.

“It’s a perfect application. We don’t build the cars, that’s not what we do. We engineer the technology,” Glass said.

LHP was aware of this business opportunity before Speidel’s accident, especially as the company has expanded West with a Los Angeles office and has made connections with companies involved in autonomous technology, Glass said. Speidel’s accident and LHP’s successful growth made it more of a possibility and priority, he said.

“For me, it’s a personal mission, and I’d like to make it for the company,” Glass said. “If all we ever do for the next 15 years of our business existence is make the cars and the roads safer for our kids, then I’d be thrilled with anything we can do in that area.”

Josh, Dave and Lisa Speidel were guests at LHP’s rebranding event where Glass shared the company’s business plans. Lisa Speidel said they had learned only earlier in the week about LHP’s intentions.

Glass surprised the Speidels, however, by announcing that the company was making a contribution to Josh’s rehabilitation efforts, and was establishing the Josh Speidel Scholarship Fund for its LHPU controls training program to attract top college graduates. After the presentation, Glass said a $5,000 contribution was being made to the rehabilitation efforts.

“I feel very blessed to know Mr. Glass and all he’s done for me,” said Josh Speidel, who graduated from North in June. “I think he can really help other drivers. No one should have to go through what I went through.”

Lisa Speidel said the family is honored and excited by LHP’s plans.

“We are continually amazed and so appreciative of the fact that there is a possibility that somebody else — another family — won’t have to go through this. Whatever we can do to support Dave and LHP Engineering Solutions, we want to do that,” she said.

Autonomous cars

Who’s working on this technology? Companies such as Google, Honda and General Motors are among companies that are developing vehicles that can drive themselves.

Pull Quote

“For me, it’s a personal mission, and I’d like to make it for the company. If all we ever do for the next 15 years of our business existence is make the cars and the roads safer for our kids, then I’d be thrilled with anything we can do in that area.”

— David Glass, CEO, LHP Engineering Solutions

Pull Quote

“We are continually amazed and so appreciative of the fact that there is a possibility that somebody else — another family — won’t have to go through this. Whatever we can do to support Dave and LHP Engineering Solutions, we want to do that.”

— Lisa Speidel, mother of son injured in car accident

Author photo
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.