Currently reading: Autocar Drivers of Change 2020: winners revealed
Our new Drivers of Change initiative to promote automotive innovation drew an extraordinary response. These are the winners and their ideas
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6 mins read
24 November 2020

Ideas for an innovative car buying app, a system to protect the grid from the growing number of electric vehicles being charged, and a platform to boost cyber-protection for future generations of connected cars were all recognised by Autocar's inaugural Drivers of Change initiative.

Three winners across Retail, Technology and Digital categories have been announced, with each winner receiving a £5000 prize. Launched in partnership with automotive executive search specialists Ennis & Co., Drivers of Change seeks to find new talent for the automotive sector across three key areas.

The competition is open to entrants already working in the automotive industry and those outside the sector. Three finalists for each category were shortlisted, with an overall winner chosen by a team of judges from Autocar, Ennis & Co., and senior figures from each of the initiative’s sponsors. Each winner, as well as the six finalists, will also get expert mentoring to develop their ideas and automotive careers.

Technology winner

Smart measurement points - Tomas Costa Capezzone

Arguably the biggest change in the car industry in recent years has been the emergence of plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. There are around 600,000 electrified cars on UK roads, about a third of which are plug-in vehicles, and that number is predicted to rise to 11 million by 2030 and 36 million by 2040. This uptake may help to reduce CO2 emissions, but it raises problems around mass EV charging.

Our Technology category winner, Tomas Costa Capezzone, has an innovative solution to increased electricity demand, which risks overload and blackouts, and harmonics, a kind of ‘electricity contamination’, comprising a distortion of the normal waveform of electric currents, caused by charging EVs and other devices.

“The harmonics produced from charging EVs in the UK are currently not significant,” he says, “but what will happen in 20 years when the number of EVs massively increases?” The harmonics could be “a real issue”. This is a problem because harmonics lower power quality, in turn causing charging problems and damaging expensive transformers and other equipment. The cost to the UK alone could be millions of pounds, Costa Capezzone says.

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So what’s the solution? Costa Capezzone’s idea lies in smart cities, smart grids and his invention, Smart Measurement Points. Taking as a base a device he developed in collaboration with the University of Valladolid, which measured the harmonics produced by EVs such as Nissan’s Leaf, these would comprise a network of artificially intelligent packs, installed in homes, that would measure how an EV is charging. By communicating with each other over a 5G network, they would then correlate this with the status of the grid and automatically adjust EV charging times and other consumption to prevent overload and minimise harmonics.

Costa Capezzone impressed the judges with his “great depth of knowledge”, “passion” for the topic and “forward thinking”. His next step is to test his technology in a medium-sized city such as Oxford, ideally in partnership with a local autonomous car firm.

Finalists:

Modular in-built wireless charging points in assigned parking spaces for electric vehicles - Kelsie Osborne

EV turbine charging, increasing a vehicle’s range in an environmentally friendly way - Gurjit Sandhu

Digital winner

Automated offensive and defensive security (automods) platform for cars and self-driving cars - Dr Madeline Cheah

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The winner of the Digital category is Horiba MIRA’s cybersecurity R&D lead, Dr Madeline Cheah, with Automated Offensive and Defensive Security (Automods), a platform to protect cars, including self-driving cars, from cyber attacks.

While innovations like increased connectivity and autonomous cars make vehicles more user-friendly, Cheah explains, they also make them more vulnerable to hacking, which could be disastrous for self-driving cars. The defences that currently exist are mainly “static and updated only intermittently” and the problem is compounded by a shortage of car cybersecurity experts. There is thus a need for sophisticated defences in the car.

Cheah’s solution has four parts. It begins with ‘attack trees’, blueprints for kinds of potential cyber attacks, initially created by Cheah and her team at Horiba MIRA but eventually automated. These are then fed into a program that uses the trees to simulate attacks and feedback on the results. From this, machine learning can then be used to ‘teach’ the program to identify intrusions automatically and find ways of defending against the attacks.

The concept has its technical roots in Cheah’s PhD thesis on automotive cybersecurity but, innovatively, she stresses that some of its principles are “grounded in biology”. The final stage will comprise an ‘artificial immune system’ with two layers. ‘Innate immunity’ will allow the system to identify intrusions and destroy them. However, because this technology is “very heavy-handed” (to counteract battery attack, it might “cut power to the vehicle”, say), Cheah proposes adding another layer of ‘adaptive immunity’ to allow its responses to be “more gradual and proportionate”.

The judges praised Cheah’s presenting skills and her innovation in identifying a “very large, complex real-world problem” for the industry and potentially solving it – feedback that, Cheah says, has given her the confidence to take her idea forward commercially. Cheah now plans to begin commercialising the first phase of the Automods platform, releasing it as a subscription-based service to selected early adopters, from midway through next year.

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Finalists:

A smart meter for your car that measures its environmental impact, including emissions from manufacturing - Tom Harle

An open mobility platform that merges car buying, admin and selling in an omnichannel app - Luke Greengrass

Retail winner

Carbusi car model recognition and car buying app - Marvin Samuels

Many customers struggle when buying a new car. They are daunted by technical details and have trouble cutting through jargon. This means they often find car buying confusing and have difficulty choosing the right model, especially when there isn’t an expert or enthusiast on hand to answer their questions, says the Retail category winner, Marvin Samuels.

Samuels’ idea, which draws on his background as an IT consultant and a car enthusiast, is a new car buying app to solve this problem. Carbusi (from ‘Car Buying Simplified’) is modelled on the popular music app Shazam, but instead of identifying a song from its sound, it identifies cars from a photo and then guides users through the process of purchasing it, simplifying car buying so that even people with little knowledge of cars can understand.

After identifying the car, the app will pull up details of the model, including specifications, equipment and price range. It will also highlight the closest dealerships and car sellers. The app will give information about ongoing costs such as road tax – “often overlooked” by buyers, says Samuels. Finally, an augmented reality feature will allow users to see how the cars look in their driveway. Samuels says the app will work for new and used cars, so long as he can obtain their data for an image and car database.

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The judges praised Samuels’ truly “customer-centric” approach. Unlike many configurators and buying guides that overload users with stats, Samuels’ favours a more accessible presentation. “The current focus on technical information causes a lot of people to glaze over. Instead of listing, say, 700 litres of boot space, it would tell them how many bags of shopping they could fit in the boot,” he says.

On winning the competition, Samuels says: “This is such a proud moment for me, successfully presenting an idea to experts in a sector that I am so passionate about. It’s a dream come true.” He is particularly looking forward to developing his idea through the Drivers of Change competition’s mentoring opportunities.

Finalists:

An e-learning course to help dealers and their dealerships improve their video and online skills - Jacob Sotiris

AutoSwitch, an app providing an all-in-one platform for car retail services and car trading - Lilly-Ann Hulse

For more information about Autocar's Drivers of Change competition, visit autocar.co.uk/driversofchange. Stay up to date by joining the mailing list at autocar.co.uk/doc-signup and by following us on social media @autocardoc

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