May 10, 2019 - Conscientious engineer meets agile developer! At re:publica 2019 in Berlin, the largest conference in Europe dedicated to the Internet and digital society, three colleagues from Daimler and Bosch's "Automated Driving Services for San Jose" project discussed how established safety processes and agile project management can find a common ground.
"Move fast and break stuff" - the famous words of Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg are considered by Silicon Valley enthusiasts, software developers and digital entrepreneurs to be the central credo of their work. It has to be fast, unfinished it may be. The goal? Reduce complexities, guarantee flexibility, everything digital and agile. What is the only way for many start-ups and young companies to grow cost-effectively is a highly challenging balancing act for traditional car manufacturers.
At re:publica 2019 in Berlin, the largest conference for the Internet and digital society in Europe, three members of Daimler and Bosch's "Automated Driving Services for San Jose" project, Sören Halskov-Nissen (Head of Product for Autonomous Driving at Daimler Mobility Services), Yannic Heiling (Agile Coach at Daimler AG) and Claus Christmann (Agile Coach at Robert Bosch GmbH), discussed how this balancing act should succeed in the future.
"Of course, we would rather have our products on the road today than tomorrow, but we have a major responsibility to our customers and also to our products," Christmann explains right at the start. In short: Fast processes, yes, but not at any price. Especially companies like Daimler and Bosch, famous for over 100 years of high quality and safety standards, cannot adopt the work processes of the Start-up generation one to one.
While an app can be improved by simple updates and a malfunction has no lasting consequences for the user, automobile manufacturers often have a central safety aspect. In the worst case, a vehicle malfunction would have dramatic consequences.
Engineers and programmers meet each other
However, Halskov-Nissen knows only too well how nerve-wracking some processes can be. He himself originally comes from the start-up scene: "I admire our cars, this incredible precision, this quality. The gap dimensions of our doors alone fascinate me again and again. But companies like Daimler also have to develop further. Are there perhaps other ways to gain insights? Where can we integrate our customers directly into these processes? Where do we really have room for development?"
The discussion on stage is the discussion in the office - after all, the three colleagues have a common goal: San Jose is to become a pilot city for testing an app-based, fully automated and driverless (SAE Level 4/5) ride-handling service from Daimler and Bosch in the second half of 2019. "Basically, two worlds collide here. On the one hand, the classic combination of car manufacturer and supplier and, on the other, the progressive Silicon Valley coder. At the same time, there are also strong synergies," emphasizes Heiling.
There are many things that can be learned from software developers and it is not for nothing that the project is strongly designed for agile project management. But the constant success of companies such as Daimler and Bosch is not least due to well thought-out test and development procedures.
Premium manufacturers with special challenges
However, the fact that these processes in particular offer many points of tension was also revealed in the course of the discussion: "It is not always easy to have to go through a security process every step of the way," says Halksov-Nissen. A comprehensible point. But how important are fast and simple processes really in such a sensitive project? After all, the development of autonomous driving is in the end about human lives.
"Who would like to be a beta tester of an autonomous vehicle", Christmann asks into the room and receives surprisingly many hand signals. So no multiple control loops after all? No intensive tests and safety processes? In any case, because the audience also demands that all safety-relevant aspects have already been tested.
"That's why we need an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). We shouldn't think things through," Halksov-Nissen says and gains the approval of his colleagues - but not without certain reservations: "Nevertheless, safety is the highest maxim, especially in view of Daimler's enormous amount of experience in this field," adds Heiling.
This pros and cons is a reflection of the transformation currently taking place in many companies. Combining tried and tested and modern approaches, bringing together the best of both worlds. In addition, Daimler and Bosch face the challenge that a premium manufacturer raises completely different expectations: "People have high expectations of our products. The room for mistakes is even smaller with us," says Christmann.
And then it clicks!
But what does the work on such a project look like now? The answer is provided by the three colleagues in the canon: short cycles for quick feedback to ensure quick adjustments, self-organized teams with members from all relevant fields of work, cultural and process development in the team - the motto: "Move fast and don't break things".
Halskov-Nissen is convinced of this approach: "People have to be involved, only then does it 'click'. That's why I think it's part of my job to keep challenging my colleagues. At the same time, we can draw on a wealth of experience that is hard to find in the competition."