True to its name, it was indeed a global event with teams joining across all the GDD hubs in Gaydon, Manchester, Portland, Shannon, Hungary and India. The first stage of the competition kicked off with sourcing problem statements from all Jaguar Land Rover colleagues in May, and finally six problem statements were announced in June across the three domains – Electrical engineering, Power Electronics and Mechatronics.
Putting ourselves forward for the challenge
My teammates, Abhijith N Balan and Ronit Hire Jaisingh, and I are Software Engineers at Jaguar Land Rover India. We heard about the hackathon through word of mouth and decided to register for it. It would be our first hackathon since graduating from college two years ago and we were excited to get this chance to showcase our skills. With about a week to go for the registration deadline, we started having meetings to go through each problem statement in detail and choose the one that aligns with our vision the most. We found the HMI Navigation Testing problem statement intriguing and implementable in the near future in our cars. This was ideal since our prime goal was to help improve the customer experience we offer by solving real world technical problems. We also reckoned that it might have the most teams competing (which turned out to be correct), which was perfect since we were up for a challenge.
One of our last meetings leading up to the hackathon was to decide our team’s name for registration, which ran for over an hour (not our proudest moment) before we ended up finalizing “Chaotic Coyotes” (combined with our GitLab GraphRunner, a nod to the beloved childhood cartoon, the Road Runner). At the end of the meeting, we joked that this might be the longest meeting we have for the entire duration of the hackathon. If only we knew how wrong we were going to be!
The hackathon kicked off on 1st July at 12 noon BST
We realized that the deadline for the competition was the next day midnight for the UK, which was 4:30 am on a Saturday for us, far from ideal. At the start we felt our chances to complete in time looked bleak due to this fact. Nevertheless, we decided upon one thing – whenever one of us is working, he will join the teams meeting so that the others know about it. This probably turned out to be a game changer for us as over the next 36 hours we ended up with more than 25 hours of meetings! For our problem statement, we had to develop an algorithm that was capable of automating the HMI Validation of the car infotainment screen.
Given the home screen our algorithm had to ensure that we clicked on all buttons and visited all the available screens so that they can be tested, with two key factors deciding the quality of the solution – the efficiency and randomness. The algorithm needed to be efficient enough to not keep on repeatedly testing the same screens or buttons, and yet random enough to mimic the typical user’s behaviour where they might choose to visit certain screens more often than others. Balancing this trade-off would be crucial to developing an acceptable solution. I have my teammates to thank for coming up with ingenious approaches and a few clever workarounds which we stitched together and incorporated into one satisfactory solution.
The 36 hours of the hackathon for us were replete with all the clichés of a typical coding hackathon during our college days – sacrificing all sleep, forgetting meals sometimes, discovering a blunder less than an hour from the deadline and scrambling to correct it! Finally, at exactly 4:30 am on Saturday we submitted our solution and heaved a sigh of relief.
After catching up on all the lost sleep over the weekend, we prepared for the next stage of the competition – the presentation. The judges had a lot of questions for us which we answered confidently and a few valuable inputs too which could add to our algorithm. We felt good about our chances after the presentation, but were mindful of the other teams too who undoubtedly would have brilliant solutions of their own. Before the results were declared we even got the chance to view the work done by all the other teams, and we found some strong contenders among those with quite efficient approaches.
We were delighted to learn that our team was announced the winner, and excited when we were told about what lied ahead. Our implementation had impressed the judges and post the hackathon we have been working on bettering it and pitching to the senior management. We received quite positive feedback for our solution from the Chief Engineer (Software Validation & Integration) at Jaguar Land Rover and his team.
Recently, we also pitched our solution to the Elec & Systems Engineering Director who reviewed all the winning entries from the hackathon. In the next few weeks, we will be working on integrating our algorithm with the current testing strategy by the validation team for a PoC. All in all, it was an exhilarating experience for us. It was a commendable effort by the organizing committee to set this up from scratch and we hope to see our project come to fruition in our cars soon!
Siddharth Brahmbhatt, Software Engineer – ADAS