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Automotive Engineering Major

Automotive Major

Ready to design the next generation of cars? Automotive engineering will bring together design and analysis of automotive systems with particular emphasis on chassis systems, engines, vehicle dynamics and control, tire and wheel system, and other important topics. Students in this program will graduate with the skills to design and analyze various automotive subsystems and conduct hands-on research which will provide a rich experience for putting science into motion.

Grant Carter works on a grinder for theVirginia Tech Grand Touring Team.
Grant Carter works on a grinder for the Virginia Tech Grand Touring student team. Photo by Ryan Young for Virginia Tech.

Program Outcomes:

We expect our students to have the following skills, knowledge, and behaviors by the time of their graduation. We want our students to obtain:

  • An ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
  • An ability to apply the engineering design process to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration for public health and safety, and global, cultural, social, environmental, economic, and other factors as appropriate to the discipline.
  • An ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
  • An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
  • An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
  • An ability to recognize the ongoing need to acquire new knowledge, to choose appropriate learning strategies, and to apply this knowledge.
  • An ability to function effectively as a member or leader of a team that establishes goals, plans tasks, meets deadlines, and creates a collaborative and inclusive environment.


The Automotive major differs from the general ME degree in the Junior 2nd semester. Two courses are required for the AUTE major that are not required for general ME students:

  • ECE 3254- Industrial Electronics:   ***Spring only***
    Fundamentals of electronics, including basic device principles. Include digital, operational amplifier, and analog analysis for industrial applications and magnetic circuits. For students in the Mechanical Engineering program or by permission of the ECE Department. Pre: 2054. (3H,3C)
  • CS 1044- Introduction to Programming in C:
    Fundamental concepts underlying software solutions of many problems. Structured data, statement sequencing, logic control, input/output, and functions. The course will be taught using a structured approach to programming. Partially duplicates 1344. (3H,3C)
    • Alternate courses which can replace CS1044 for AUTE majors: CS1064 (Python) or ECE1574 (C++, if taken in past - this course is no longer being offered)

Some students may find that they can take these two courses earlier than Junior 2nd semester. That is ok as long as the student is able to distribute their course load in a manageable way. CS 1044 may be taken at VT or a community college very easily. ECE 3254 is not available, to our knowledge, elsewhere.

Senior year courses that differ from the general ME degree:

  • AUTE students are not required to take ME 4124 (CAD of Thermal Fluids)
  • ME 4544 Automotive Engineering:   ***Fall only***
    Vehicle performance, drive train, suspension, steering, and brake systems. Steady state and transient conditions. Senior standing in Mechanical Engineering required. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4564 Vehicle Control (pre. ME 3524, ME 3534):   ***Fall only***
    Overview of vehicle control systems and control algorithms for anti-lock braking, stability, road holding, lane departure, traction control, and tire pressure monitoring. Advanced driver assist systems and intelligent tire technology. Hands-on experience with hardware-in-the- loop systems. Mathematical modeling and simulation of vehicle control. Pre: 3524, 3534. (3H,3C)
  • ME4534 Land Vehicle Dynamics  ***Spring only***
    Analytical methods for land vehicle dynamics. Mechanics of pneumatic tires on pavement and steel wheels on rails. Vehicle stability, handling, response to random guideway and roadway irregularities, ride quality computation methods and standards, suspension design. Pre: 3524. (3H,3C)

Three credits of technical electives are required for the degree and typically completed during the senior year. Students should be sure to pay attention to when courses are taught and plan accordingly. It is not guaranteed that a course will be taught in the student’s senior year so it is also important to have back-up course selections.  

  • ME 3604 Kinematics and Dynamics of Machinery:
    Kinematic analysis and design of cams, gears, and linkages, velocity, acceleration and force analysis, kinematic synthesis, balancing, kinematic and force analysis by complex numbers, computer-aided analysis, and synthesis of linkages. Pre: ESM 2304. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4204 Internal Combustion Engines:
    Analysis and design of gasoline and diesel engines. Fundamental processes and their application in current technology. Thermodynamics: air standard and air-fuel cycles. Combustion: stoichiometry, fuels, chemical equilibrium, chemical kinetics, flame propagation, knock, pollutant formation and control. Flow processes: volumetric efficiency, intake and exhaust tuning, two-stroke scavenging, carburetion, fuel injection, super- and turbo-charging. Pre: 2134, 3414. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4554 Advance Technology of Motor Vehicles:
    Energy use and environmental issues for motor vehicles: Emissions standards, fleet requirements, dynamometer testing, fuel economy, and vehicle performance. Alternative fuel vehicles: Characteristics and infrastructure of fuels, batteries, electric vehicles, and hybrid electric vehicles. Vehicle design: Modeling and simulation of vehicle energy use and performance, component sizing. Fuel cells for transportation. Heavy-duty vehicles and busses. Low mass vehicles and future vehicle technology. Pre: 2134. (3H,3C)
  • ME4614 Mechanical Design II:
    Design of mechanical elements such as welded joints hydrodynamic bearings, spur gears, shafts, brakes. Alternative fatigue design methods, cumulative fatigue, mechanical design computer software. Pre: 3624. (3H,3C)
  • ME4624 Finite Element Analysis in Mechanical Design:
    Application of the finite element method to stress analysis problems in mechanical design. Modeling techniques, proper use of existing computer programs, interpreting of results, application to design modification. Pre: 3624. (3H,3C)
  • ME4634 Intro Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing
    Participants will study the computer-aided design and manufacturing of mechanical systems. A mechanical system will be designed including preliminary design, analysis, detail design, numerical control programming, and documentation. Applications programs will be written and interfaced to the CAD/CAM database. All assignments will be carried out on a CAD/CAM system. (2H,3L,3C)
  • ME 4644 Rapid Prototyping:
    Participants will study topics fundamental to rapid prototyping and automated fabrication, including the generation of suitable CAD models, current rapid prototyping fabrication technologies, their underlying material science, the use of secondary processing, and the impact of these technologies on society. The rapid prototyping process will be illustrated by the actual design and fabrication of a part. Programming skills required. Pre: 3024. (3H,3C)
  • ME4674 Material Selection in Mechanical Design:
    Systematic approach to materials selection accounting for market need, functional requirements, shape, safety, cost and environmental issues. Overview of design process, material property charts, material indices, selection of materials with multiple constraints and/or conflicting objectives, shape factors, design considerations in hybrid materials, environmental issues as well as several case studies. Pre: ESM 2204, MSE 2034. Co: 3624. (3H,3C)
  • ME 4744 Mechatronics: Theory and Application:
    Electromechanical design and control applications. Theory, modeling, simulation, analysis, design and building of electronic interfaces and controllers; sensors and actuators; software development, micro-controller technology, and applications. Design Lab/Studio. Pre: 3534, ECE 3254, CS 1044. (3H,2L,4C)
  • ME 4974 Independent Study:
    Must be directly related to Automotive Engineering to count as a major elective.  Contact academic advisor for more information. Requires minimum 2.50 overall and 2.0 in-major cumulative grade point averages.
  • ME 3984/4984 Special Studies Courses:
    Must be directly related to Automotive Engineering to count as a major elective.  Contact academic advisor for more information. These temporary course numbers are assigned to new courses being taught before they have been assigned a permanent course number.  Past Special Studies courses approved for AUTE major elective credit include ME3984, SS: Tech Commercialization.
  • ME 4994 Undergraduate Research:
    Must be directly related to Automotive Engineering to count as a major elective.  Contact academic advisor for more information. Requires minimum 2.50 overall and 2.0 in-major cumulative grade point averages.

AUTE students must participate in a year-long senior design project approved for the AUTE major. Senior design teams are assigned during the first week of classes of the student’s senior year.

Most students complete their BSME degree in 4 years.  For students wishing to include one or two semesters off from school to get paid engineering work experience, we have developed co-op plan with either 8 or 9 semesters of classes (see links below).  

For students who are participating in one of Virginia Tech's ROTC programs or who wish to spread out their courses to 10 semesters, see the "Military 5-year Plan" link below.

Please contact your academic advisor if you are off schedule and would like to see how one of these plans could be motified based on the courses you have already completed.

Major FAQs

The curriculum requirements for the degrees are the same until junior 2nd semester. At that point, AUTE students begin taking courses that specialize in the automotive industry. Students in the AUTE major have priority when adding AUTE courses. It is possible that a general ME students may not be able to take automotive course work if they do not major in AUTE.

We recommend that students who major in AUTE are sure that they want to pursue a job in the automotive industry. Pertinent course work mixed with work experience in automotive related jobs are the two most important factors for a student pursuing a career in the automotive industry. If you are not sure if you want to pursue an automotive career, please speak with an ME Advisor and/or a Career and Professional Development Advisor for career exploration.

Yes, you can. However, you may need to delay graduation in order to fit in all of the requirements for the two degrees. You will need to participate in a senior design project that meets requirements for both majors which means your options may be limited.

A student must complete 30 credits beyond the primary major (159 credits total) to receive a second diploma.  If you are short on credits, you will receive a diploma for your primary major and a certificate for your second major.

If you are interested in double majoring, you should set up a meeting with your ME Advisor to discuss your course plan.

Yes, to determine which courses from the AUTE major will double count for undergraduate and graduate coursework, you can speak with an ME Graduate Advisor.