Smart traffic lights and infotainment parking assistants: Finding smart solutions to everyday problems at the Hackathon Stuttgart 2019
An infotainment system that tells the driver where to find a free parking space at the airport. A gamified display system showing drivers their gas mileage in real-time. A traffic light that tells approaching cars if it’s about to change colors. These were just a few of the ideas the hackers dreamed up at the 8th annual Hackathon Stuttgart 2019 last weekend.
Eight years of hacking: The Hackathon Stuttgart
From the 25th to the 27th of October, about 200 participants came together to develop creative, tech-assisted solutions at the Hackathon Stuttgart. The hackathon was first held in 2012 — and what started out as just a few dozen participants on a handful of teams has grown into a huge event with more than 30 teams and hundreds of hackers. Among the participants were programmers and developers, designers and innovators, not only from the Stuttgart region but also far beyond the city borders, ranging from high school students to professional programmers in their late 30s. The main goal of the hackathon was to connect participants and sponsors to develop smart ideas together, to network and to strengthen the coding network in the region.
Today’s experts meet tomorrow’s innovators: Porsche as Visionary Sponsor
Ferry Porsche, who created the very first sports car to bear the Porsche name, was a visionary. His words — “In the beginning, I looked around and could not find quite the car I dreamed of. So I decided to build it myself.” — have been our guiding principle for more than 70 years and we continue to set our hearts and minds to it. To realize our vision of the sports car of the future, we are always looking for new ideas — inside and outside our organization. As the Hackathon Stuttgart embraces the development of ideas in many areas that we incorporate into our strategy such as cloud, mobile apps, connected devices and mobility, it provides an excellent opportunity for us to connect with people who are just as passionate about creating new ideas as we are in the city that we call our home.
Therefore, we supported this year’s event as a visionary sponsor. Maybe one reason why we’re so excited about this is that we participated ourselves with two teams of Porsche employees last year and had such a great time!
Offering the participants the opportunity to work and test in real-life environments
As a visionary sponsor, we had the chance to guide participating teams and also had a seat in the jury that evaluated the solutions of all teams, which was a great honor. Since we wanted to help the teams develop solutions that work in practice and not just in theory, we gave them access and support to our data and infotainment systems.
The HIGH MOBILITY platform allows developers to recreate the experience of working with real-world connected vehicles in a simulated environment through the use of an innovative car emulator. This way, participants could play around with over 300 different data sources and functions, use the REST API or specific SDKs and actually test their apps and services in a simulated Porsche. We also provided some additional sugar: A Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid was parked outside and teams working with the HIGH MOBILITY API were allowed to use a sub-set of the same API to interact with that very vehicle. Milad Rastian from HIGH MOBILITY was on site with us to provide support for the APIs.
Besides the car APIs, we provided so-called targets of our Porsche infotainment systems (the infotainment system you can find in the all-new Porsche Taycan!) at the hackathon for participants to install their applications and test the usability via touch, voice or all the other features. As part of our expert team, Mihai Socaciu from Porsche Engineering from Cluj in Romania and Marc Stewart from e.solutions were there to share their technical know-how in infotainment systems.
Let’s get hacking!
After a warm welcome by logicline, the hosts of the Hackathon Stuttgart 2019, on Friday afternoon, the sponsors briefly introduced themselves and the participants divided up into teams and chose which sponsor or challenge they wanted to work with — and the hacking began. Friday’s activities were focused on teambuilding and gathering all the necessary equipment. The hardware desk, which was kindly supplied by logicline, was impressive: from 3D printers to sensors, they had all kinds of hardware for the participants to prototype with.
Saturday was all about coding, prototyping, testing, failing and trying again. Besides the great spirit in the Phönixhalle and the first sneak-peaks of some great ideas, one highlight were the cars we had brought on site: the brand-new all electric Taycan Turbo S (fuel consumption combined 0.0 l/100 km; CO2 emissions 0 g/km; energy consumption 26.9 kWh/100 km), a Cayenne E-Hybrid (fuel consumption combined 3.4–3.2 l/100 km; CO2 emissions 78–72 g/km; energy consumption: 20.9–20.6 kWh/100 km) and a Panamera GTS (fuel consumption combined 10.3 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined 235 g/km).
We were overwhelmed by all the interest and positive feedback regarding the vehicles in the tech and hacker community, and we both spent a few hours on Saturday and Sunday explaining the features, details and visions of the cars to the participants. They were excited about our products and eager to work on solutions to make the Porsche experience even better — that was so great to see!
It is very inspiring how creative the teams get during the hackathon, how many different approaches they pursuit and how innovative their ideas are in the end. This is why we also incorporate this effect of a hackathon internally at Porsche as well — to leverage the creative potential of colleagues inter-departmental.
GreenTeam wins the Porsche challenge with a smart traffic light
Sunday was pitching time. As a sponsor, we had the chance to award one team with the Sponsors Challenge prize. We chose a solution by the GreenTeam that used Porsche APIs and a self-made self-learning traffic light retrofitted with additional electronics to make traffic flow more smoothly and save fuel at the same time: a smart traffic light.
How it works: Using a retrofit kit, the traffic light continuiously analyses its cycle time and sends a signal to the approaching vehicle, informing it if it’s about to turn green in the next couple of seconds. If this is the case, the vehicle’s automatic start-stop system does not engage, and the engine remains running. This way, vehicles with combustion engines in particular leave the intersection faster and make traffic flow smoother. In addition, this solution is very useful for the engine, as it is more efficient to let the engine run a fraction of a second longer instead of switching it on directly after it was turned off.
The team wrote a learning algorithm that used machine learning to track the traffic light cycle and re-connected that with the stop-start system data of Porsche. To us, this was a winning idea. Because at Porsche, it’s not just about cars — we also invest in smart mobility and connected devices and this car-to-x solution is a very good, practical example of thinking beyond the vehicle itself and to — in this case — incorporate the city infrastructure.
Besides the smart concept and great software solution, we were deeply impressed by the hacker’s craftsmanship and presentation that convinced us in the end: in the short amount of time, they built a model prototype traffic signal out of lightbulbs and cardboard to demonstrate their idea.
Recap: it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it!
After three exhausting days with lots and lots of work, we can look back and say the event was a huge success! For us, this wasn’t just a sponsorship — it was a way to get new perspectives, an opportunity to see what creative minds outside of Porsche do with our interfaces and data, independent from any business processes or guidelines.
We are overwhelmed with positive feedback from the participants and are equally happy about the possibility to work with such committed hackers on common challenges, to inspire and be inspired and to see how the participants bring their ideas to life in two days. This is what we love about hackathons.
A huge thanks to the organizational team from logicline — we have seen and participated in many hackathons and the Hackathon Stuttgart is one of the most professional events we know. We’re looking forward to an even bigger and better event next year!
Matthias Falkenberg is IT Project Manager & Software Engineer Smart Mobility at Porsche AG. Matthias Hub is IT Project Manager and Prototyper at Porsche AG. Follow us on Twitter (Porsche Digital, Next Visions), Instagram (Porsche Digital Lab Berlin, Porsche Digital, Next Visions) and LinkedIn (Porsche Digital Lab Berlin, Porsche Digital) for more.