Volvo will join the long list of car makers looking to help global efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic with a ‘hackathon'-style collaboration of senior engineers and developers.
The ‘Hack the Crisis’ initiative, involving around 200 Volvo employees from Sweden, the US and China, will be conducted completely online over this weekend. The brand also has the Swedish government, alongside hackathon experts, as partners for the event, which aims to “come up with solutions in three specific areas: to help save lives, communities and companies”.
Autocar spoke to one of Volvo’s lead technical designers and lead organiser of the event, Paul Aston, who said the innovations that will emerge will “probably exceed expectations”.
He said: “We’re in this horrible situation where everything’s out of our control around the world, and the thing with the guys I work with is they’re always in doing or making mode. They can’t channel that energy into normal work, so we are letting them use their powers for good, get behind this initiative and get their teeth into it.
“We were thinking about these sponsorship deals that brands are doing and, to be honest, it felt kind of meaningless in a situation like this.” Aston said. “But we’ve got this incredible base of people. We have engineers, developers, user-experience designers, service designers – people who’ve gone into a slowdown with working hours cut down to 60%. They’ve got into a sense of disempowerment and feeling like you want to do something but don’t know what."
Aston stressed that this is about real, tangible solutions to problems facing the world during this crisis, with a hope that Volvo can innovate beyond current manufacturer efforts to build ventilators, respirators and masks. While admitting that it’s “hard to tell” what will come out of it yet, he claimed there are “insane amounts of enthusiasm and engagement” from his teams.
The hackathon will continue throughout the weekend as members process ideas, with the final judging due on Sunday evening. It is hoped that any ideas can become practical realities in a relatively short time.