There is hardly any area in IT that Matthias Schneider hasn't worked in: Back in the 90s he worked on autonomous driving, integrated the internet into the vehicle, up-dated the navigation systems and then developed the software basis for the MBUX. Today, Matthias Schneider is head of the "Vehicle Functions & Cloud Platform" unit and gives us an insight into how IT will continue to turn mobility on its head.
Mr. Schneider, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I am 45 years of age and am responsible for the further development of our cloud technologies at Daimler. I like spending time with my family in my spare time and I also try to playfully integrate the topic of software programming into our time together. It's in my veins. For example I built a model railway with my children and we now have it driving autonomously. Otherwise I like running, sometimes I do a marathon, and during the winter I like to ski.
When did you join Daimler?
I am practically ancient in the Daimler world. I started working here in 1994 when I was studying electrical engineering and automation technology. It wasn't long before I discovered my passion for research and development and dealt with the topic of autonomous driving while writing my dissertation. I specifically looked at the use of neuronal networks and artificial intelligence. We even drove partially autonomously – of course in prototypes. And that was 20 years ago.
What did you do after that?
Following my studies, I started working in the electrical engineering unit, where I dealt with digitization and vehicle networking. Back then, I was one of few software experts. It was a very exciting time. After that I went to Chicago (USA) for a year and developed Daimler software with a service provider. I then went back to Daimler and before long I had assumed my initial managerial tasks.
Then the internet came along…
That is true. Our aim was to introduce an internet browser into the vehicle. This meant connecting the vehicle to the internet with WAP technology [internet protocol for slow transfer rates and small mobile communications displays, editor's note]. That was in 2002. After that, I looked after the software of our navigation systems, for all cars.
And then the next invention was awaiting you: the MBUX.
We created the basis for this at any rate. I spent three years in our RD Center in Silicon Valley and built up a new team. Our task was to develop a completely new user interface software. This then became the basis for our user interface of MBUX (Mercedes—Benz User Experience), our infotainment system capable of learning. Back in Germany I developed the graphic user interface along with my team up to series maturity. We celebrated the world premiere of this in 2018.
Wow, that's a long list of innovations. What next?
Following the successful launch of MBUX, I assumed responsibility for a new unit that deals with cloud technology. This unit literally deals with the brain of our vehicles and how to bring elements from the cloud into the car. We want to continue to drive forward the digital transformation of our company using this technology.
Why did you choose Daimler as your employer?
At the time I was in contact with several companies and in the end I decided on Daimler because I like the atmosphere here the best. Personal initiative and responsibility were required but at the same time freedom was also granted. The perfect combination for me. The chance to work abroad and to experience that with my entire family was also a personal highlight. Then there were the exciting topics that Daimler was working on even back then, such as electrification, automated driving and networking.
Please explain your job using a simple example? What is your work routine like?
Today we have millions of cars on the roads that are all already connected to the internet. The most well-known example here is that almost all cars receive traffic data from so-called "clouds". This data is transmitted to the vehicle via data centers or cloud infrastructures. We ensure that vehicles can not only receive but also send data and that we can meaningfully process the data further. Naturally only if the customer wants this and consents to this.
What would the vehicle "send" for example?
It would of course not send any of the driver's personal information, rather data for detecting black ice, for example. If the vehicle determines that it is driving over black ice, the ESP intervenes and can automatically send this information to the could. Other vehicles driving the same route can then receive this information and react in a timely manner. Such mechanisms do, after all, increase our driving safety.
Why does IT/AI turn mobility on its head?
In classic vehicle development it was mainly about solving things with little computing power, because back then we did not have any other options. Today we have much more computing power and data volume at our disposal, something that makes automated driving possible in the first place. We can process and transmit the huge amounts of data. That is why IT and AI are putting mobility on its head.
And what #nextbigthing are you working on at the moment?
The car is increasingly becoming a software product. The driver is progressively being relieved of tasks. At the same time, entertainment and gamification in the vehicle are on the up, for example with our MBUX. This means that the car is developing into a place where people like to spend their free time. We are trying to create this place with the aid of cloud technologies.
Please tell us a little bit about your unit. Who works there and who are you looking for?
There are around 80 colleagues working with me, looking after cloud technologies, IT infrastructure and modern software development. We are looking for experts to help us draw up and further develop our cloud infrastructure to state-of-the-art technology. Another field is IT security. Trust in our brand and securely dealing with data is extremely important to us. We are therefore also looking for experts who can support us in this area.