Performing Well at CodeFEST8

When we decided to enter the hackathon, some fellow students and I were in it for the fun. We had worked together before on a mandatory software project and wanted to revive the productive atmosphere of the good old times. Neither did we expect to win in Dresden nor did we have in mind that there was a realistic chance of winning at the CeBIT 2015 against teams from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

No Work All Play Makes a Good Code

After the idea was drafted, the team, consisting of long-time friends but also a freshman and an older diploma student, was relentlessly working for the whole 26 hours. Only one team member went home to sleep but quickly returned to continue programming. When most of the work was done but there was still some time left, the freshman even decided to spontaneously develop a Windows phone app. It lacked server integration but once it was displayed in the five-minute demo talk, the bare amount of progress we made, seemed to absolutely convince the jury. They enjoyed the way we emphatically followed our goals while staying focused on effectively making progress. They also commended how our idea solved a serious problem with a non-serious approach.

The Problem

In a previous post, I already mentioned the hackathon was themed as mobility of the future. So what’s a serious problem that could be tackled by the automotive industry with IT? Obviously: Security. The German standards are very high set already, however, each life lost is one too much. The largest risk group is still young people between 18 and 25 – new drivers, inexperienced with high speeds, and often slow to react to new situations. According to these stats from 2012, 66% of 18- to 24-year-olds involved in an accident were the cause of it. If they just had something that keeps them on track – some kind of non-interfering feedback.

The Actual Project

That’s a good idea. It doesn’t exist in that form, yet. There are many systems already onboard systems that involve gamification elements. They reward the driver for driving a certain distance, remind them of breaks, give them the ability to share their tracks on social media, etc. But none of them were designed from scratch with driving safety in mind. The idea is a system that passively rewards the driver for safe behaviour and motivates him to continue driving safely. That’s the gamification part: Rankings, experience points, levels, and other game-like elements keep the user immersed and dedicated.

The advantage: Not only young people are receptive to gamification means. With driving safety’s strong relation to reality and practical relevance, it appeals to all age groups. Stats of German road casualties show the age groups that the project’s contents focus on.

The need for advanced safety training among young people is obvious. However, people around the age of 50 are also a huge risk group. My assumption is that they get caught in their habits and easily become absent-minded when driving a known track during their everyday life. They might tend to ignore risk points simply because they are used to passing by them.

Analysis of a car’s sensor and GPS data could help in discovering those risk points. Through interaction with GDOS (Gamified Driving Optimization System), safe driving behaviour in these points might then be rewarded. In case the driver has been speeding too much at a certain point or another insecure scenario, the system will not distract the driver in any way while he is still on the road. After ending his tour, he will be notified of the EXP points he has missed out on and why.

That’s the advantage of a non-interfering system: The driver is not distracted. There is no use in some kind of interaction with the driver while he is driving. This might annoy the driver and in the worst case even lead to an accident. The spot where we want to raise the driver’s motivation to continue is right after the tour. He is able to sync his data with a smartphone app and can thus share his progress. It simultaneously is uploaded to a server where his stats are stored.

How Can This Be Applied Further?

There is a vast amount of usage scenarios outside the car. Cooperations with retail might bring additional motivation, e.g. a coupon for a free coffee at a cooperating gas station once you reach a high-enough level. It’s always nice to have some form of physical reward for your efforts. Furthermore, bigger partners like insurance companies can profit. Of course with some further security measures implemented, the system might be used to calculate insurance contributions. You’ve been driving safely for the last two years? Here, have a discount. Or even better, get your premium lowered!. This might or might not be a suitable concept. As marketing aspects weren’t the hackathon’s focus, we’re always open to new ideas here. 🙂

Chances for the Future?

I hope so. We put a lot of heart blood into there. I don’t want to reveal too much here, but some people from the jury showed strong interest in the project. We’ll see what the future holds. Before the hackathon, I wasn’t sure whether working for the automotive industry would be something I want to do in my life. Now however, I definitely see it as an option. I truly hope to be able to post an update on the whole matter again someday!

Edit: We reached out multiple times, also to the private contact info that has been given to us. No answers. I guess the people from Skoda and Volkswagen were just acting nice and supportive as long as there were cameras. I’m not mad, just disappointed. This would’ve had some good potential.