Meet Alaa Khamis, a Senior Advanced Technology Specialist, based out of our Canadian Technical Centre Oshawa Campus.
1) How long have you been at GM and what is your current role?
In July 2017, I joined GM as an artificial intelligence (AI) expert in the Connected Vehicles (CV) and Human-Machine Interface (HMI) team. In collaboration with other engineering groups, we leverage the power of AI and machine learning (ML) to create new features for our vehicles. Additionally, we look for ways to improve the customer experience, and to create (or enhance) business models for seamless and sustainable mobility.
I also provide training in different areas of AI, such as ML, AI-based multi-criteria optimization, massive agent modeling & simulation, and smart mobility systems & services.
Finally, I work with first-tier Canadian universities like University of Toronto, Waterloo University and University of British Colombia to collaborate on various AI projects.
2) What brought you to GM?
I wanted to be part of the ongoing paradigm shift towards safer, greener, and more efficient seamless mobility systems and services. It’s an honour to work for a leading OEM like GM that not only envisions the future of mobility, but also works toward it with a clear vision for a future with Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, and Zero Congestion.
3) What is the best part about your job?
The best parts about my job are the friendly work environments, good work-life balance, and the freedom to innovate while targeting different incremental, disruptive and transformative innovation horizons.
I spent more than 15 years working as an AI & Robotics professor at different universities in Canada, Spain, and Egypt. But when I joined GM, I had to take off my academic hat and become a practitioner who deals with real-world problems and helps deliver innovative and practical solutions.
4) How has GM helped you grow?
Working at GM has helped me improve different soft skills, such as design thinking, customer-focus, project management, the ability to adapt and work in a fast-paced environment, and interpersonal skills. GM always supports technical and non-technical training, enabling me to gain a wide range of knowledge in different disciplines.
5) What is the coolest thing that you’ve accomplished since being at GM?
Aside from my advanced-technology work, the coolest thing I’ve accomplished is spreading the AI culture across GM by delivering university-level training courses, organizing workshops about AI & ML, and actively contributing to the GM AI Summit. I’ve also coordinated AI Talks, a series of Lunch-and-Learns where GM employees can share ideas and learn about AI in an informal manner.
Additionally, in collaboration with the CV & HMI and Controls & Active Safety teams, we developed several new features for our vehicles and managed to file several patents.
6) What’s one thing you do every day to keep yourself safe at work?
I strictly follow GM’s safety regulations while knowing that workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility.
7) What’s your favourite GM vehicle?
I love SUVs and have been driving my Cadillac XT5 since I joined GM. However, any GM vehicle with technology that I have contributed to will be my favourite!
8) If you could drive to one place where would it be?
One day I'd like to drive across Canada on the Trans-Canada highway from St. John’s in Newfoundland to Victoria in British Columbia.
9) What do you do on your free time?
I like to read, spend time with my family, and play table tennis and chess with my son.
I also teach a course about bio-inspired algorithms for smart mobility at University of Toronto. This course highlights the power of AI in solving complex, continuous, and discrete problems that arise in smart mobility systems & services. We look at issues such as adaptive vehicle routing, motion planning for shared autonomous vehicles, last-mile delivery optimization, on-demand multi-modal transportation planning, EV charging network optimization, and autonomous vehicle fleet management. Several projects will be presented at the end of the course in a smart mobility symposium to be coordinated by GM Canada at the University of Toronto.
10) What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
One of my main missions in life is to empower sustainable development using existing and emerging AI technologies. I volunteer at international activities, such as the AI for Good Global Summit and IEEE Standard for Ethically Driven Robotics & Automation Systems.
I also established Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-free World in 2012. It is an international robotic competition that aims at motivating researchers and developers to work on innovative solutions to demining.
Finally, a fun fact about me is that I get nervous when I play video games. I actually avoid playing them despite the persistence of my daughter and son!
11) If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I would spend more time with my family and dedicate more time to volunteer in humanitarian activities.
12) What movie title best describes your life?
The Man Who Knew Infinity: a biographical film about a self-taught Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan. Like him, I always try to achieve my dreams through hard-work, persistence, determination, dedication, and devotion despite the challenges I may face.