Creating the Vehicle of the Future

The winners of the Global Connected Car Contest 2012 celebrate in Silicon Valley (Photo: SAP AG)
The winners of the Global Connected Car Contest 2012 celebrate in Silicon Valley (Photo: SAP AG)

As any car owner will tell you, driving in a big city can quickly turn from comfort into frustration. Congested roads, high fuel costs, and spending an eternity looking for a parking spot can drive even the most patient of people around the bend. The World Health Organization estimates that the global urban population will reach 5.2 billion by 2050, and with many of those people needing to be mobile, the situation in our cities is likely to get worse without the right ideas and advances in technology.

In the past, there have been several initiatives to get people to drive less. But what if the solution was to use technology in the car itself? One idea is the connected car – a vehicle connected to the Internet. With the right technology, the connected car could, for example, allow drivers to instantly communicate with other drivers. It could give them a real-time overview of their surroundings, such as upcoming traffic lights, gas stations, or even the closest available parking spot. And it could allow people to stay connected with their social network from inside the car.

SAP hosts Global Connected Car Contest

SAP has recognized that some of the best ideas in this area have yet to be explored. So at the end of last year, the company teamed up with Audi AG to launch the 2012 Global Connected Car Contest. The competition invited students from around the world to submit proposals for the connected car in categories including traffic, fueling, parking, and the environment. The prize for the best ideas: a week-long trip to Silicon Valley to meet experts from SAP and Audi and work on a real-life connected car solution.

  1. The winning ideas: “Carpanion” and clever parking systems
  2. Navigation System 2.0, car sharing network, and “Instant start-up”
  3. The Silicon Valley Workshop: Students create a brand new app
  4. Global Connected Car Contest continues in 2013

Next page: 2012 Global Connected Car Contest: the winning ideas

The best proposals were selected in March 2013 from several hundred entries. Below is a brief overview of the winning submissions.

Carpanion, by Tobias Schwan

The driver’s well-being is the principle behind Tobias Schwan’s idea. The German student from the Technical University in Munich came up with “Carpanion”, a system where the car monitors the driver’s current condition and adapts the environment accordingly. “Carpanion” would use real-time data analytics to evaluate the vehicle’s surroundings and the driver’s emotional state before changing lighting, entertainment, and comfort settings for support. It would also be able to calculate alternative routes.  The system would use a smartphone to monitor the driver’s speech and motion, as well as relevant information stored on the device.

Clever parking systems

Smart parking, by Dongmei An

It’s the epitome of parking frustration: you finally find a parking spot, only for someone else to beat you to it at the last second. Dongmei An’s connected car proposal would make that a thing of the past. The undergraduate from the National University of Singapore impressed the jury with her smart parking system, which would not only allow drivers to see an overview of spaces before entering a car park, but also to reserve a spot via touch screen at the entrance. The driver would then receive a description of how to reach the chosen space.

Sharing residential parking spaces, by Kilian Batzner

Information Systems and Computer Science student Kilian Batzner proposes a network connecting drivers to city residents who are not currently using their residential parking spaces. His platform would automatically search for private parking spots – which often lay empty during the working day – and offer them to city visitors. Not only do drivers benefit from easy, hassle-free parking, but residents can use the scheme to earn a little extra money.

Next page: More winning ideas from the contest

Navigation System 2.0, by Kerstin Puchan

Kerstin Puchan would like a holistic approach to navigation systems. The 20-year-old from Karlsruhe in Germany argues that these systems often ignore public transport options when finding the quickest route to a destination. Her proposal not only calculates the fastest journey by car, but also takes buses, trains, and cabs into account, which are often quicker during rush hour. Furthermore, her navigation system would suggest places along the way to up a coffee, a snack, or even some flowers on the journey home.

Instant Start-up, by Christian Wünsche

Car fanatic Christian Wünsche’s idea involves vehicles communicating with each other while waiting at a set of traffic lights. This communication would enable the automobiles to start up and accelerate simultaneously once the traffic lights turn green, saving fuel and resulting in less congestion.

New car sharing concept

Car sharing network integrated into the vehicle, by Andreas Hauer

Andreas Hauer from the Technical University in Munich proposes a network enabling members to join pre-planned routes. First, a driver enters a route he or she is planning to take.  This route is then published online to allow other members to book in on any part of the journey from their smartphones. The driver picks them up and drops them off along the route as required, for example at a bus stop or train station, where the passenger can continue their journey.

Next page: The Silicon Valley Workshop

In June, the contest’s six winners took part in a week-long workshop in Silicon Valley. The workshop gave the students an excellent opportunity to work with experts from SAP and Audi and put their ideas into practice. The young innovators also attended talks and lectures on subjects like M2M and SAP HANA, and got to visit sites including the SAP research labs in Palo Alto and the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Belmont, California.

“The idea was to give the students as much exposure to industry experts as possible, and at the same time create for Audi and SAP an opportunity to collaborate with the students on their ideas and concepts,” explains Gil Perez, Senior Vice President Sustainable Industries and GM Connected Vehicles at SAP AG. “Although we only had 5 days, an immense amount of work was done. Everybody had a lot of fun and we jointly created an amazing application: WaitASec.”

Students create new app for hassle-free parking

Most of the week was spent working on a new smartphone app that combined aspects of the winning ideas. The result was WaitASec, an application that helps drivers find available parking spaces in real time while donating money to charity. At the end of the week, the app was successfully tested on the streets of Palo Alto (you can see the test taking place in this video). The students also learned about testing and QA phases involved in the development of an app, and gained valuable experience in the non-technical side of releasing a product. “We walked them through how to market a product, to think about the target audience, and how to present their ideas,” says Gil Perez. “At the end of the week, the students presented the app to an actual venture capitalist – recreating what happens in the real world.”

Next page: Take part in this year’s Global Connected Car Contest

Global Connected Car Contest continues in 2013

Following the success of the Global Car Contest in 2012, SAP has recently announced a new contest for 2013 with GM/Chevrolet. This time, start-up companies can take part, too. The deadline for submissions is November 15, and the winners will be announced in early 2014. Details of the new contest, including how to enter, can be found at