Experts from HERE were delighted to assist at a weekend-long hackathon organised by Mercedes-Benz in Silicon Valley this summer. The hackathon challenged participants to create “the next big thing in the digital life of a driver.”
Rasheq Zarif, senior manager for business innovation at Mercedes-Benz North America, explains:
“Mercedes-Benz has been in Silicon Valley for 20 years. We are at the forefront of many activities here. We use hackathons internally as one of our methods to generate ideas and concepts. And with software, prototypes can be created at a computer.”
Nearly 400 developers, designers and other experts signed up for the event when it was announced: the organisers had to close registrations and create a waiting list.
Around 200 showed up on the Friday – again, far more than expected. Then 47 ideas were pitched, and 20 were chosen to proceed to the hackathon stage.
Participants in the hackathon had the opportunity to work with a simulation of a Mercedes-Benz head unit.
And using APIs, they had access to all of this simulated vehicles’ sensors. “That isn’t something anyone outside the company would normally be able to see,” says Rasheq.
HERE brought a team of experts, who made themselves available at all hours of the event, to show participants how to connect the data coming from the car with our location and mapping APIs.
Each of the three top entries, and all of the entries that had location as part of their ingredients, used HERE services in their prototype.
Jerri – the app works out when you need fuel and asks for it, so you never have to look at the fuel gauge.
CoPilot – works out if drivers are becoming drowsy and suggests nearby rest-stops or hotels if it finds they are.
Benz-Pay – saves time by allowing drivers to pay for fuel, parking and more using your car’s in-dash display.
The three winning entries have now had the opportunity to refine their prototypes using a real C-Class Mercedes-Benz, and to present their ideas to the leadership team at Daimler.
So, what is ‘the next big thing in the digital life of a driver’, judging from the ideas proposed and created?
“A surprising number of the entries were based around safety,” says Rasheq. “Innovations to keep drivers alert or to notify them in various ways about what’s going on.”
“Maybe less surprisingly, there were also a number of entries connected, in some way, to social networks.”
So what happens next? Will these ideas be implemented in real product offerings?
“It’s too early to say,” says Rasheq. “But the leadership team were certainly impressed and intrigued by the ideas they were shown.”
“The broader picture is that we are willing to use the intelligence of the community and we’re willing to be innovative and quick to market. The car industry has changed more in the last five years than the preceding 150 years.”
“And when it comes to software, people have an acceptance that it isn’t perfect, so we can attain that speed. People know software evolves and improves over time. I am talking here about apps and communications systems: we’re not going to be moving away from safety and reliability when it comes to core driving functions.”
Benz-Pay – Hackathon winner
The team behind Benz-Pay, consists of four hackathon regulars who love to build, design and bring ideas to life. Working on the idea of future of payment, the team demoed three excellent opportunities for paying from the touch screen of your car.
With gas stations and their pricing available through HERE APIs, it was easy to get started on visualizing them on top of the map.
“It was definitely easy to work with the HERE APIs and the well-written documentation. It was great to have people on site to answer questions to get things done faster”, says Justin from Team Benz-Pay, who worked on connecting the map to the data and the payment system.
“Gas station and pricing data is a great addition to the basic map APIs”, adds Anari, who led the team to success in the hackathon.
The team plans to keep working together on developing ideas and working on innovative projects like Benz-Pay.
Would you pay for parking with just a tap on the touch screen of your car? Would you love to see Benz-Pay in your next car? Let us know in the comments section below.