Algorithms, cloud data and machine learning: 24-hour hackathon with Daimler in Silicon Valley

November 2016
Silicon Valley | Stuttgart
  • It’s all about digitalization of Mercedes-Benz Vans at Hack.SiliconValley
  • Students and young professionals spent 24 hours programming
  • Winning team developed app to optimize fleet management
  • Successful conclusion to Daimler's global series of hackathons

Silicon Valley | Stuttgart – Motivated students and young professionals met on 5th and 6th of November in Silicon Valley, California, to compete in the fifth 24-hour hackathon jointly organized by the Business Innovation Team of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Mercedes-Benz Vans and DigitalLife@Daimler.

The task was to develop intelligent transport and mobility concepts for the Mercedes-Benz Vans division. With its strategic initiative "adVANce", Mercedes-Benz Vans is transforming itself from a vehicle manufacturer into a provider of integrated, customer-focused solutions. Since the start of the year, the Future Transportation Systems team in Silicon Valley has been working on concrete logistics concepts. The team's "garage" in Menlo Park was also the venue for the hackathon. It was here where the competitors found the inspiration for clever concepts and fresh ideas around the intelligent connectivity of vans, goods and people with the Internet of Things and cloud data.

Experienced mentors were on hand to help the teams with words and deeds. After 24 hours, the ideas were pitched to the judges at the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America in Sunnyvale. Each team had four minutes to convincingly present their propositions to an interdisciplinary panel of expert judges from Mercedes‑Benz and Daimler. The jury rated criteria such as the degree of innovation and business potential of the ideas as well as the use of IoT and cloud technologies and the functionality of the prototype.

The winning team "MBarc" developed an app that enables the driver at all times to assess the damage on the vehicle. The driver uses his smartphone to take a 360‑degree shot of their van. The app then accesses data-based reference models, compares them with the vehicle and identifies possible damage. The damage is then analysed and the need for repair is assessed - a quick and simple way to optimize fleet management.

The second-placed team, "FleetWise", was successful with the idea of intelligent fleet routing for electric vehicles. Machine learning is employed to determine the usage of the vehicle battery based on current traffic situations and the driver's driving style as well as on the weight and size of the vehicle. As a next step, the app suggests a suitably energy-saving route or indicates the way to the nearest charging station.

Third place went to the "VANage" team, which used IoT- and cloud-based sensors, route information and driver profiles to accurately predict maintenance intervals in order to increase driver safety as well as to efficiently plan vehicle usage times.

Nicolaas Tempelhoff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Future Transportation Systems North America: "With the Hackathon we were not only able to inspire smart minds for our brand but also gain concrete ideas for digital solutions around our transporters. We now want to work intensively with the interested teams and discuss possibilities for implementation."

With Startup adVANce in the search for innovations

Mercedes-Benz Vans is constantly on the lookout for new ideas and innovative business models. In order to support this, Mercedes-Benz Vans recently launched a large-scale Startup Challenge for young companies that want to shape the future of transport together with the globally successful manufacturer of transporters. Until mid-January next year, clever ideas have the chance of financial aid and support from Mercedes-Benz Vans experts (

Overall verdict: innovative format spurs digital transformation

After Stuttgart, Beijing, the IAA in Hanover, Bangalore and now Silicon Valley, with the fifth 24-hour hackathon in the global DigitalLife Campus series, the DigitalLife@Daimler team has successfully completed the first cycle of events. Markus Hägele, Head of DigitalLife@Daimler recaps: "It was fascinating to experience how, in a very short time, almost 300 enthusiastic competitors from all around the world were able to apply such great entrepreneurialism and team spirit, in close consultation with our experts, to develop innovative ideas and thereby contribute to the digital transformation at Daimler." The multidisciplinary DigitalLife@Daimler team is responsible for the company-wide digitalization strategy. The hackathons have made it possible to engage with students and young professionals from many different disciplines, who have come up with inspiring and unconventional ideas on the way towards the digital transformation at Daimler.

At the centre of innovation: 21 years of Mercedes-Benz in Silicon Valley

The headquarters of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America in Sunnyvale is part of the global R&D network with a focus on the digitalization of vehicles. Mercedes-Benz in Silicon Valley has undergone consistent expansion since 1995. With just 20 employees at the opening over 20 years ago in Palo Alto, the figure is more than 240 in Sunnyvale. Alongside customer research and connectivity, new development areas for the mobility of the future have been added such as autonomous driving, advanced user experience design and machine learning. In addition to automotive technologies, the Business Innovation team is developing new business models for mobility inspired by technological, social and cultural trends. Since 2012, the team has been testing and evaluating profitable business models on a proof-of-concept basis.

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  • Legend
    24-hour hackathon with Mercedes-Benz in Silicon Valley - "Garage" of Mercedes-Benz Vans in Menlo Park, CA.
  • Release date
    Nov 10, 2016
  • Legend
    24-hour hackathon with Mercedes-Benz in Silicon Valley
  • Release date
    Nov 10, 2016
  • Legend
    The winning team "MBarc" developed an app that enables the driver at all times to take stock of the damage on the vehicle.(right: Arwed Niestroj, CEO Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America)
  • Release date
    Nov 10, 2016