Inside Plus: Robert Dingli, VP of Systems and Safety
A native of Melbourne, Australia, Robert has worked on vehicle engineering innovation for OEMs and startups around the world. He served as a senior development engineer at Ford and General Motors; a systems engineer and program manager within Tesla’s autopilot program; and manager and director of vehicle engineering for the robotaxi companies Lyft Level 5 and Pony.ai.
Robert joined Plus in 2019. He lives near the Plus headquarters in Cupertino, California with his wife and three children.
Q: Your work has taken you from Australia to China to the U.S. What launched your global journey?
A: “In 2012 the automotive industry in Australia was slowly dying, so I took the opportunity to move to Shanghai to work for Qoros. It was an amazing opportunity to live in a radically different environment and culture. All the children were born in Australia, and we all had a wonderful time in China. It opened our eyes to the fact that we are global citizens.”
Q: At what point did you decide to focus on autonomous driving systems?
A: “I came to California with a job offer from Tesla. At the time I was focused on powertrain engineering: technologies tied to actually moving the vehicle around. I started to work more with some of the safety features on the vehicle and eventually moved over to the Autopilot team. That was my pivot from powertrain where I’d been since the early 1990s to autonomous driving.
The technology is very interesting, and I enjoy working on systems that are demonstrably contributing to saving lives.”
Q: After Tesla, you worked for the two robotaxi companies — Lyft Level 5 and Pony.ai — and then Plus. What drew you to Plus?
A: “I firmly believed robotaxies would be the first implementation of autonomous technology. But after working in that space for a while, I realized it is further off than people realize.
The thing that stood out with Plus was the people who interviewed me. As my career has matured I have realized that it is more important to choose the right boss and right team than it is the company. The people at Plus understood what I could contribute, but I was deeply impressed by the knowledge base and attitude and business road map they set down.”
Q: Describe your role at Plus. What do you do every day?
A: “I do a lot of requirements management. That’s where we try to quantify what the customer requires and distill that down to a set of instructions that are given to engineers that they can act on in terms of writing software or designing hardware. I then ensure that every requirement is testable and has a test case and test plan associated with it with traceability linking the overall process.
On the safety side, I bring structured engineering processes to support and implement an overall safety concept. This can involve everything from developing the safety concept to driving the implementation, test, validation, and documentation of the solutions. So I provide the context and constraints to enable others in the team to develop the innovative solutions with direction and confidence.”
Q: How would you describe the culture at Plus?
“At Plus the focus is on designing the product to meet the requirements of customers. We also foster a lot of innovation. We’re open-minded to hearing ideas in terms of defining problems or issues and then taking them on as challenges we should solve. That open-mindedness and desire to harness the knowledge base and skills are super important.”
Q: How do you spend your downtime?
“I’m part of a local Land Rover club, and we get out at least once a month into the beautiful California countryside. It’s important for people to understand how beautiful the countryside is here — the mountains, the beaches — and take the opportunity to stop and smell the roses. So I do some four-wheel driving with like-minded individuals. For me, striking the work-life balance is super important.”