September 09, 2019 - How was your day? And are you driving alone today? These are some of the questions asked by Béla, the new app developed by Daimler Mobility, which is now available free of charge in Daimler’s App Store. Béla is a digital travel companion who supports drivers by making individualized recommendations during long drives. In the process, the app even learns new information and intelligently uses it to adapt its algorithm. In an interview, our app inventor Andrea Spielvogel explains how this works and all the things Béla can do.
Hello, Andrea. Could you please briefly introduce yourself and tell us exactly what you do at Daimler Mobility?
I’ve worked at the Daimler Group for 20 years now, and I’ve done lots of different things here. For example, I was the Head of Marketing Europe at car2go (which is called SHARE NOW today) in Stuttgart, and I helped to build up this unit. For the past five years I’ve worked at Daimler Mobility, where I’ve mainly been responsible for innovations. In this position I’ve supported Mercedes-Benz Vans Mobility, Flexperience, and the Digital Solution Center in Berlin. Today I’m a Mobility Manager, and one of my responsibilities is the Béla app.
You’re the developer of Béla, an app that supports drivers during long drives. Why is an app like this necessary?
In a survey, 26 percent of the 1,000 respondents said that they had fallen asleep at the steering wheel at least once.* That’s a shockingly high number. All of us are familiar with this kind of experience: We’re tired, but we’re only 30 minutes away from our destination. What do we do? We go on driving. This is exactly the point when accidents frequently happen. That’s because if you stay awake too long, your ability to react drops significantly.** Statistics like these clearly show us why it’s important to take breaks when you’re making a long drive. We want our Béla app to make drivers aware of this fact.
How did you come up with this idea?
Our customers know that at Daimler and at Daimler Mobility we consider safety extremely important. Alongside our vehicles, I therefore wanted to develop a digital product that can ensure greater safety in road traffic in vehicles of any brand. What I found especially interesting was the combination of highly personalized health and traffic data and the premise that this data always stays with the customer. That’s how Béla was born.
What exactly can Béla do?
This app is supposed to be your bad conscience and make you reflect on your behavior behind the wheel. On the basis of your personal profile and driving behavior, it reminds you when you should take a short break or interrupt your driving for a longer period of time. The new aspect of this app is that it is really individually adapted to each driver. If you wish, the app asks you before a drive whether you’ve slept well, whether you’re driving alone, whether you generally drive long or short stretches, whether you’re a novice driver, and many more questions. On the basis of these data, the app makes a personalized profile of you, and this app is capable of learning even more. In other words, what we’re using here is artificial intelligence.
Thus Béla is a digital supplement for the ATTENTION ASSIST fatigue warning system from Mercedes-Benz, which is already available in its series-produced vehicles. What’s the difference between Béla and ATTENTION ASSIST?
The Béla app is a service that is independent of brands and vehicle types. This is important, because not every driver has an Attention Assist system installed in his or her car. Another innovation is the highly personalized adaptation of the app to every individual driver.
And why is the app named Béla? That’s not a very common name.
Béla Barényi was the originator of passive safety, and one of the most extraordinary innovators of the 20th century. He was responsible for over 2,500 patents, and some of them have already saved lives or are standard equipment in automobiles today. You could say that our app is an homage to him.
We make it clear that the human being will remain the pacemaker of technical progress.
Renata Jungo Brüngger Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Integrity and Legal Affairs