Cars that take delivery of packages and look for a parking space for themselves — are these just crazy ideas? No! For many smart drivers, the “ready to” services are already a part of daily life.
The diverse group of developers at the smart lab has already developed a whole range of practical services for connected vehicles and refined them to the point of series production. We talked to Daniel Deparis, the head of the smart lab, about the current highlights of the “ready to” services at smart.
Daniel, which “ready to” service are you using preferably at the moment?
Daniel: I’ll give you a current example: I’ve been invited to a party this evening, and I’ve ordered a special loudspeaker for the host. Normally, I’d be on pins and needles all day long, wondering whether someone will be at home when the package is delivered. But thanks to “ready to drop,” I don’t have that problem. This service delivers packages to the trunk of my smart. Using an app and a TAN, the DHL courier can open my car one single time and deposit the package directly in the trunk.
And as a result, you never have to go to the post office on Saturday to pick up deliveries you’ve missed?
That’s right. Our goal is to really help people save time. I consider that as my basic mission. So people have more time for the really important things in life — family, friends, and themselves too.
We want to offer our customers services that give them more “unstructured time” — time they can use in whatever ways they want. We believe that’s the biggest gift we can give them.
Can you still remember the roots of your project?
One day a colleague came to me at the office with a couple of notes and drew my attention to the area of online shopping…
…and the problem of delivered packages?
That’s right. People kept ordering more and more goods, but they didn’t receive the packages because they weren’t at home. That’s how it all began.
Other people had also been thinking about this problem. How did your team take the solution to the point of series production?
We identified this trend early on, acquired DHL as a partner, and made some initial tests very quickly. I still remember how we once hid behind a bush here in Böblingen and watched the DHL courier walk up to a smart. He opened it up using his phone, and then he shouted, “Hurrah!” That’s the kind of thing you’ll never forget.
The implementation went amazingly fast.
It’s also very important for the process to go fast. In line with the motto “Start before you’re ready,” we’ve got the courage to launch things and try them out. But we also say no if a project clearly doesn’t have a future.
Is this a recipe for success for the entire Group?
It certainly is. The era when people thought and worked in ivory towers is over. Thanks to our increasingly flexible organization, we can get going very fast and not only produce prototypes but also move right into series production.
What are some other ways that you help customers gain more “unstructured time,” as you call it?
For instance, in the search for a parking space. When people at some point are spending more time searching for a parking space than doing the entire trip, something’s going wrong in our cities. That’s what happens to me every time I drive my daughters to their sports practice.
Have you got a solution?
Yes, one of our latest services is “ready to park.” Here my smartphone shows me at a glance where there are free parking spaces near me or at my destination. I can even reserve some of them. In other words, the parking space will be waiting for me, and I haven’t spent any time looking for it.
That sounds great. The “ready to share” service has been available a bit longer. Can you briefly explain how it works?
“ready to share” is a form of peer-to-peer carsharing. Customers can share their private cars with selected individuals in what is called a “closed community.”
The system works conveniently by means of an app without the complicated process of transferring the car keys. The customer is safeguarded by an additional insurance policy that is free of charge for him or her. We currently offer “ready to share” in three countries: Germany, France, and Italy.
Why do you use a “closed community”?
We are in regular contact with our customers, and we ask them to give us feedback. As a result, we’ve learned that people don’t want to share their cars with just anyone. They make a distinction between their close friends and family members on the one hand and acquaintances and strangers on the other. We’ve taken that into account in the “ready to share” service. At the moment, our customers place more trust in their close friends and relatives and are willing to share with them. From our viewpoint, this trust will cumulatively grow and expand after every positive experience.
Is the app-based lending of a car a secure procedure?
We’ve got extremely strict standards when it comes to security. Our advantage is that we can build on the car2go technology, which has been tested by millions of users.
The “theft recovery” and “ready to spot” services were also launched recently.
Yes, these services are brand-new, and they’ve been available since the beginning of June. “theft recovery” is a digital assistant that provides support if my vehicle has been stolen. We developed this process together with the relevant authorities. After a theft has occurred, our customers can use it to communicate the vehicle’s position in real time to the police within minutes. This means the authorities can spring into action much sooner, and of course that increases the chances that the car will be found. This process used to take days, if not weeks.
What’s the concept behind “ready to spot”?
“ready to spot” is a “bring me back to my car” service. For example, if you’re using a Park & Ride parking lot or you’ve gone shopping and now you’re coming back loaded with shopping bags, “ready to spot” can simply guide you back to your car. The integrated moovel navigation shows you various options and means of transportation, including the costs involved.
In addition, this service has a number of small helpers, such as a parking ticket reminder and the option of using your smartphone to make your car flash its lights. This is a great advantage if you’ve parked your car in a very big parking lot. Another example how we help our customers by taking the stress out of the situation.
Who thinks up all of these services?
The team members have a lot of freedom to take on responsibility for various themes. As the team leader, I take care of the resources, capacities and so on. The team members are responsible for working together with the customers to develop and refine innovative and comfortable services. From PowerPoint presentations to reality in “co-creations” with the customer. After receiving customer feedback, we developed the “theft recovery“ and “ready to spot“ services and worked together with actual users to refine the idea into the services we have today.
How do you then put your ideas on the road?
We entrust each theme to an individual, whom we call the Service Owner. This person is in charge of the service from the first presentation to the market stage. I believe this is the key to success: end-to-end responsibility — and an agile organizational structure.
We don’t have a transitional step in which one colleague hands over the baton to the next one. A Service Owner is active at every level: He or she talks to the dealers, coordinates activities with IT colleagues, and makes presentations to the Board of Management.
That’s a big responsibility.
Yes. That’s why good cooperation within the team and beyond it is very important. In most cases we have a strong trio consisting of the Service Owner, the software developer, and the colleague who is responsible for implementing the marketing stage.
Do the members of the smart lab need to have certain profile?
We’ve got a high level of diversity in the team. These colleagues bring with them a broad range of experience from fields of every kind. One comes from the gaming industry, another one is also a lecturer at the university. Some of them are in Böblingen or Leinfelden, while others work on IT in China or in Rome. Of course I’m delighted when a Chinese colleague talks to someone from the USA about UX themes — at a level where I have to really make an effort to understand everything. All of the team members have strong capabilities and a strong level of commitment. We’re united by our willingness to learn and to try out new ideas and develop them further.
And you’ve got agile working methods.
Yes, we’ve got clearly defined roles and areas of responsibility. For example, each specific service is dealt with by a single colleague. When we develop the services, we use an iterative process — which means, we keep repeating certain steps. As we go from prototype to prototype, we get ever closer to a product that is ready for the market. And throughout the whole process we’re always interacting with our customers.
As a flexible swarm organization with colleagues from smart, car2go, and Daimler Mobility Services, we’ve defined a model for ourselves that is based on empowerment and individual responsibility. We don’t have many hierarchies — whoever is keen on implementing ideas gets the opportunity to take on responsibility for a certain project.
When did the smart lab get off the ground?
We launched it two and a half years ago. It was initially a small laboratory, but since then we’ve developed it into a real “factory” that develops ideas from a prototype to series production.
What’s the objective?
We said to ourselves that actually we’ve already got the perfect car for city driving — the smart. And we’ve got great mobility services, namely car2go and moovel. But we were missing a third aspect: vehicle-related services that make life easier for customers. According to the vision of smart:
Making life easier in the city.
Now let’s talk about the most important question: How can customers access the “ready to” services?
Through their dealers — there you can buy the “ready to” package together with your new smart. The package is also available to our Daimler colleagues via employee sales. Our front end is the “ready to” app. This is where everyone can choose the right offers and put together his or her own package of services. In general, we try to be as close to the customers as possible.
Which smart models can the “ready to” package be integrated into?
Many smart models, including the smart EQ fortwo and forfour. This product is a real upgrade for the telematics systems — and it offers our customers a new world.
We’d like to hear your personal opinion: What does the future look like for the smart lab and the “ready to” services?
My goal is to create an organization that develops products for smart and other brands — and thus saves our customers an average of two hours per week. We’ll know we’ve done our job well if a customer says to us, “You’ve improved my life.” Soon, the car will no longer be merely a means of transportation. It will be an urban assistant — taking delivery of my packages, for example.
More information about the “ready to” services: http://www.smart.com/readyto