Ever since he can remember, Lucas Bolster has been interested in cars. After a personal stroke of fate, he realized what he actually wants to do: improving the safety of cars. Today the 28-year-old engineer works at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America. In the interview he told us about his job and why he believes safety and sustainability belong together.
Lucas, Long Beach in California is probably a dream workplace for many colleagues. What do you need to bring along to work in your team?
Yes, it is a pretty awesome and unique place to get to work! Our "Mini-Sindelfingen" is located in an industrial area and is for example only ten minutes away from the beach. But my job itself is also great. (laughs) As a team we learn a lot and quickly from each other. I think the most important traits are to be passionate about the goals of our work and to be flexible to constantly changing tasks and schedules.
You work in “ADAS/AD Testing”. It sounds like cryptography to me. What does it stand for?
My primarily job is doing on-road testing for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), for example the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC or the Active Brake Assist, and for our upcoming Automated Driving System (AD), DRIVE PILOT. Our team is focused on delivering the safest and most comfortable experience for customers. So, we’re frequently on the road gathering unique situations and testing our systems against them.
What does your working day look like?
Our team is comparably small. It consists of six colleagues, so we do a little bit of everything. One day it might be doing test drives around Los Angeles, the next might be talking to regulators in Washington D.C. or Sacramento.
What, do you think, does your work mean for the Daimler Group worldwide?
To me, driver assistance and automated driving is all about trust. We are working to earn the trust of our stakeholders, the public, our customers, and regulators, so that we can deploy life-saving innovations in an effective way. In today’s global society, this impacts people all around the globe.
40 years ago, we pioneered digital assistance systems with the anti-lock braking system (ABS). How do we maintain this pioneering spirit?
We earned our position and reputation not just because we were first, but because when we were first it was right. While delivering lifesaving developments as quickly as possible is what our customers expect and will have a great impact on their safety, these systems must be robust and trustable. We cannot prioritize being first over being ready.
What motivates you about your job?
I have always loved cars through and through. In college, while I was working on our Formula SAE car (an international construction competition), my grandma was hit and killed in her car while she was driving home from the hairdresser. This moment was a huge wake-up call for me. I realized where I needed to direct my energy and time. I still love cars, but I recognize the need to make them more sustainable and responsible partners on the road. Since I started at Mercedes-Benz, we have released several industry-first safety features, two of which, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic and Pre-Safe Side, may have been enough to save my Grandma’s life. I am happy to have been a part of their development so that our customers and other road users are that much safer on the road.
I trust our assistance systems completely because...
"...first, they constantly express their capability to you, that you know in which situations you can trust them. For all my colleagues and me, safety comes first and we take responsibility in every single step of the process."
If I had to choose between e-bike and e-car, I would take the…
"...e-car. This decision is such a hard one, because I am a big cyclist."
The mindset in America is...
"...getting things done."
When you think of "sustainability", the environment and climate come to mind first. Why does your job also contribute to sustainability?
To me sustainability at its root is about longevity. While cars are amazing and beloved objects to many, they certainly have their downsides. As developers, I consider it our responsibility to address those.
At this moment, the automobile’s future is challenged by its environmental impact from production and operation, its space consumption, et cetera. But also by safety reasons. In the U.S., we have seen an overall increase in road fatalities over the last five years. We cannot ignore this. Driving safety improvements for those inside and around our cars is our responsibility. Only safe cars are sustainable cars. Therefore, my colleagues and I are constantly working on making the roads safer for everyone. Doing so, we focus on our integral safety strategy which considers every part of road safety.