BEIJING, China — “It’s 3 a.m and we are still here, coding!” @Xiexing_lingzi updated her Chinese Twitter Sina Weibo on the morning of January 27.
@Xiexing_lingzi was part of an intensive 24-hour hackathon coding competition to develop potential in-car connectivity technology organized by Ford Motor Company and Chinese internet search giant Baidu.
The event was the largest hackathon Ford had ever been involved in globally and the first time that Baidu had partnered with an outside company for a hackathon event.
“Ford provided 10 developers to support the hackathon event, 3 of them came from North America AppLink team,” said Joe Xia, manager, advanced product development, Connected Service, Ford Asia Pacific. “In fact, we arrived at the Baidu campus one week before the event to support two training sessions for Baidu developers allowing them to have a better idea about what could be achieved with AppLink.”
Kicking off at 9 a.m on January 26, more than 70 Baidu developers brainstormed ideas and coding to seek creative ways to make cars more social in the future.
The 24-hour hackathon itself was certainly a social experience. Around 100 participants working as a team or individually had heated discussion and brainstormed what kind of in-car connectivity technologies would be safest and smartest.
“Some of the best ideas were created during team conversations. Participants were listening to music, singing, dancing and laughing even when they felt tired! Coding is indeed tiring but hackers kept on going! The spirit of a hackathon is about innovations, moving fast and to have fun,” said Xia.
The teams of hackers worked through the night to prototype some ideas that were later presented and demonstrated to a Ford and Baidu judging panel that included Dave Schoch, President, Ford Asia Pacific, and Ed Pleet, director, Connected Services, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa, and Europe.
“I was amazed by the creativity and innovation of the teams and their enthusiasm was contagious. It was inspiring. They challenged my imagination of what might be in the not too distant future,” said Schoch.
“At Ford, we see ourselves as a technology company. By working with Baidu we can use each other’s software capabilities and ideas to offer valued connected experiences to Ford and Baidu customers,” Pleet said.
“Ford has participated in a number of hackathons with companies like Facebook, but the Ford-Baidu hackathon is our largest to date. We were especially humbled to be Baidu’s first ever partner for such an event,” added Pleet.
In total, 26 ideas were submitted, several of which could easily go into production. Ideas generated included using Baidu off-board voice for any type of in-vehicle natural speech search results including navigation feedback and an in-vehicle poll that could help you pick popular points of interest at your destination. The best of those ideas will be further developed for potential sociable features in Ford vehicles.
Yuan Gao, a female Baidu intern won first prize – a round trip air ticket to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
“Gao was one of the people who talked to Ford developers most during the hackathon to understand how to best bring applications into the car leveraging Baidu cloud technology. We do realise that a hackathon is a great way to generate valuable ideas and it’s essential to work with internet companies like Baidu to move forward in customer in-car connectivity,” said Xia.
The Ford-Baidu Hackathon was the largest event of this kind for Ford globally.