ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab hosts online ‘COVID-19 Mobility Race’ hackathon

  • International hackathon of ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab and ŠKODA AUTO held online for the first time, under the theme ‘COVID-19 Mobility Race’
  • 25 independent IT teams and 27 high-tech companies from 19 countries worked on innovative digital solutions for the car trade
  • 2 teams from India won top prizes at the global Covid Mobility Race
  • ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab supports the winners in developing their project ideas and offers the prospect of collaboration

ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab has played host to the global online ‘COVID-19 Mobility Race’ hackathon. The theme of this year’s ideas competition, which took place from 4 to 7 June 2020, set the tone: the event was dedicated to the current challenges facing the automotive industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. How can a vehicle be bought and delivered whilst following stringent social distancing measures? What options are there for car buyers to virtually view their dream car? And what role will digital mobility services play in the future? 25 independent teams and 27 high-tech companies from 19 countries came up with surprising and innovative answers to these questions. While the team from Israeli high-tech company Matter beat its competitors with 3D virtual showroom technology in the main track, Indian firm Xenon Automotive India won the region specific track for their product NEXO which is suite of an apps that helps dealers and OEM’s to offer the best purchasing experience to their customers in post Covid world, that includes demo and test drive, ensuring optimal utilization of test drive fleet utilization and will now be supported by ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab and have a chance for further collaboration with experts from the innovation lab.

Another Indian team Ctrl+Alt_Covid, consisting of 2nd year students from IIT Guwahati, presented an innovative idea for creating a new normal in post COVID world. Their solution uses deep learning and image processing algorithms to provide the user with the count of people at the given location at that time. Their product goal is to create a safe space and promote social distancing.

All around the globe, the past few weeks and months have been marked by measures taken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further. Of course, this also affected the automotive industry and in particular car dealerships. The ‘COVID-19 Mobility Race’ hackathon organised by ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab and ŠKODA AUTO therefore asked the question of how innovative concepts can be integrated into everyday working life and how these can benefit ŠKODA and its worldwide sales and service network.

Andre Wehner, ŠKODA AUTO Chief Digital Officer, stated, “The current situation has shown that many areas of our lives, both on a private as well as a professional level, can be carried out much more digitally. For us, the current crisis therefore also presents an opportunity. We would like to make the most of what we have just learned and make use of the existing technical possibilities in order to cater to the needs of our customers even more specifically. This year’s international online hackathon has delivered exciting new approaches and innovative concepts. And the participants’ response has demonstrated that the potential is far from exhausted.”

IT teams and high-tech companies from all over the world took part in ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab’s four-day international hackathon, including teams from Europe as well as from China, India and Israel, where the DigiLab spin-offs are based. ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab awarded a separate winner for a special category dedicated to IT solutions for the Indian market. There was also a special focus on the IT hotspot Israel, where the winner is from: ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab Israel Ltd supported the tech companies from Tel Aviv throughout the competition.

For four days and nights, the teams programmed, discussed and optimised their proposals. The spectrum of projects ranged from online viewing of new and used vehicles, innovative disinfection options, shared mobility, logistics and infrastructure concepts, to new business models in relation to social distancing. The panel of experts including ŠKODA AUTO Chief Digital Officer, Andre Wehner, and ŠKODA AUTO DigiLabs’ Managing Director, Jarmila Plachá, as well as other specialists voted Israeli company Matter’s project on a virtual showroom to be the best from the ‘COVID-19 Mobility Race’. They favoured this concept as it is interactive, can be presented very realistically and can be implemented flexibly. The victorious team will now be supported by ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab, enabling them to further develop their project. Furthermore, ŠKODA AUTO will investigate whether and how the project can be put into practice.

This year’s event was ŠKODA AUTO DigiLab’s fourth hackathon. Since its debut in 2017, the ideas competition has also attracted a great deal of attention in the tech and IT start-up scene because of the exciting and innovative contributions the teams have made, presenting ŠKODA AUTO as an attractive employer for young IT talent.

Impact of IoT on Automotive Product lifecycle & change in business model

For the last few years, if anyone types these 3 words “Automotive Trending Topics” on any search engines, clearly these 4 distinct and univocal topics will come up every single time. These are Autonomous vehicle, Electric Vehicle, Shared Mobility and Connected Vehicle. The focus today will to be to discuss in depth on the topic of Connected Vehicles. So what exactly is Connected Vehicle? In simple terms, it refers to the communication of one car with other cars / with the traffic management infrastructure / with the vehicle occupants / with the outside world. The car of the future will become a “third place” between home and workplace, combining features of both. This is where IoT (Internet of Things) steps in, which is a collection of interrelated computing devises which have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Thus, connected vehicle will soon be an integral part of IoT by being one amongst those connected devices.

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The present computing devices such as Mobile phone, Laptop, Tablets and other gadgets, have a typical product lifecycle (PLC) average of 1-2 years. Due to the enormous pace at which the technology is advancing both on the hardware and the software sides, the product becomes obsolete within 2 years, which typically defines the PLC. Now with the similar pressure to digitize the car and thereby adding new features to connected vehicles, the average car lifecycle (5-8 years) will also adapt to the technology lifecycle (1-2 years), thus marking a significant drop.

So now, what will be the impact of such a change of PLC on the automotive landscape? It will have multitude of impacts at various level, for the different stakeholders as well as the environment. Let us analyse them one by one.

  • From a consumer’s perspective, the change might result in renting, leasing rather than go for a purchase (Since with a shorter PLC, it makes more sense to just use it for a year and so and move to the next model with more features rather than owning and selling – as typically there is a significant depreciation of an average car for first 1-2 years which will even go higher when the technology shifts very fast).
  • From Dealership model of selling cars, the shift might result in renting model companies, where these companies will be owners of the vehicle and will be renting out (Short term lease model). Such business model will require strong hand holding from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), as the vehicle owned by these renting dealerships need to be capitalized between them and the OEMs.
  • From the OEM’s perspective, the focus will be on absorbing the obsolete vehicles from the market to make more space for the new vehicles.
  • From an environment perspective, it is beneficial as the OEMs are taking in the old vehicles and will try to reuse the components as much as possible thus creating a huge opportunity for recycling.

Now it is only a matter of time that connected car will be a significant part of IoT. When that happens, it will be really interesting to see whether the car owners will need to find new ways to finance their vehicles (New financial instruments) or the industry will adopt to a different business model as mentioned above. Only time will tell.

(The article is written by Rudra Raj Hazra. He is automotive professional, a market analyst & commenter.)