Hertz hosted its first Hertz Hackathon here in Silicon Valley last weekend. It took place in Redwood City at the nestGSV ecobator (I am not making these names up) and had a nice set of prizes ($50K in cash, $30K additional prizes) A number of other vendors also offered prizes for creative use of their APIs, including Nokia (Here maps, POIs, routing), AT&T, Twilio (voice & SMS), VoicePark (parking spot reservation), Rechargecar (Maccina Arduino board with car specific interfaces), Scoot (SF scooter rental)

Hertz itself offered several APIs to use:

  • Reservation APIs
  • NeverLost APIs (service that provides maps, routes, POIs to the optional in-car personal navigation devices)
  • CarShare APIs (access to car telematics like VIN, speed, odometer, fuel level, malfunction code via a box from Eileo – see below)

Hertz is interested in leveraging smartphones, social networks, and increased use of telematics data to provide new or improved renter experiences for both business and leisure renters. Increasing urbanization around the world also means more traffic and – at least in the US and European economies – lowered incentive to own a car. Hence the growth of carsharing, carpooling and related services. A trend Hertz obviously wants to capitalize on as well. You may remember Avis bought Zipcar for half a billion dollars. Hertz has a similar service called Hertz on Demand.

Hertz acquired a Paris based telematics services and hardware company called Eileo in 2009. A growing number of Hertz cars have that box in them – it provides GPS, a modem, connection to CANBUS, an RFI reader that replaces and extends car key functionality and a WIFI hotspot when the car ignition is on. Software wise, the box can phone “home” details about the car (location, fuel level, lock status, fault codes etc.), immobilize the car if necessary, and provide “push to call assistance”. In addition, the box also includes a web server which allows easy access to a subset of car data (the Hertz Car Share API) I wish OEMs would make access that easy.

Hertz has about half a million cars worldwide. The hackathon started Friday night with presentations and continued non stop until Saturday 4pm when each team got a (nominally) 3 minute presentation.

You can see a list of the esteemed judges here.

And this is the current Personal Navigation Device based on WinCE  that runs the Hertz NeverLost service. A new Linux based unit, thinner with a larger screen and a cabin facing video camera is being phased in. Personally I probably would prefer a smartphone windshield mount & USB socket for charging my phone since it has all that plus a lot more functionality…but maybe that’s just me.


And now, to the 3 minute (+-) demos of the various teams. There were two concurrent pitching sessions, I only have videos from one, still that is over 20 teams !

Hertz Hackathon April 2013 playlist

or individual videos below:

Hertz Hub
social network for your car
join someone on a trip: “Zimride” for trips (also for field trips, ad hoc “fleet”)


Travel Buddy
A mobile, integrated Hertz companion software experience for renters (on smartphone rather than the funky Neverlost boxes)
nearest places, gas stations + prices, augmented reality finding of gas stations
uses NFC in the car (tap dashboard with phone, starts app)


Ways 2 go
Multimodal routing optimized for cost or time
Overnight built rental cars, public transport, taxis, walking, more modalities can be added.


“Taskrabbitting” a valet for your car: a person brings you the car or brings it back.
Disabled/Elderly people, refueling, car washes etc as needed.


Glympse like location sharing + “Find my friends” like group location sharing


multimodal routing – see app at http://www.nimbler.com


Hertz Peace of Mind
Skype ie video upgrade to Onstar-like “on accident” functionality for Hertz agents and customers. Hertz dispatches new rental car for you to continue your trip
This team won the hackathon.


Suggest attractions along the way, incl detour times
Monetize by trading data : relevant physical traffic in exchange for coupons, discounts
like google adwords sells relevant search traffic


Road Mail
Proximity based offers. Every highway, freeway exit, all POIs, all airports in US get an email address. Merchants can send email to each “location”. Road Mail filters/forwards these emails to travelers based on how close they are to each location. Special offer emails integrates directly with Apple Passbook (no additional app, just email and passbook)


Hertz Guide
Hertz approved local city tour guides that drive your Hertz car.


Relay Drive
Pony Express for Electric Vehicles: swap your depleted-battery Hertz car out along the way at the next Hertz location for a fully charged one (no worries or waiting for recharge). Software monitors remaining battery range via Elios telematics.


Hack until it Hertz
rent-a-fleet: smartphone reservation for corporate renters (eg a company renting multiple cars allowing different employees to use it)


Funky Route
Google gives you the shortest route between A and B. We give you the funkiest route. Suggestions of where to stop along the way, fast interface for selecting the ones you want, app automatically gives turn by turn directions for all destinations along the path.


Google Machine Learning engineers build predictions (“Google Now for in the car”):

  • lower speed + start/stop a lot => you are probably looking for parking, Promptly suggests parking spots
  • if fuel level low, proactively find cheapest gas nearby
  • return to Hertz option: figure out closest gas station along the closest Hertz location in order to figure out whether to just return the car (and pay Hertz for the tank) or fuel it up first.


an app to allow Hertz to poach people who have already made reservations with competitors. Users allow Poacher service to monitor their email inbox for car reservation emails which will be parsed and sent to Hertz for poaching offers.


Want to give your sweetie a REALLY special, fun gift for their birthday ? Like a Maserati or a Lambo from the Hertz Supercars collection ? This app lets you start a “kickstarter” campaign for friends and family to chip in to the rental.


Driver for Google Glass
Use the Mirror API to enable

  • Driver, report accident (report an accident like Waze, take a picture, send up a georeferenced photo. Same for hazard etc.)
    • report hazard
    • report stranded
  • Driver, communicate
    • search for drivers
  • Driver, assist (google hangout with AAA, Onstar etc. with video conference to guide you in changing tires etc.)


Connected Carpool
carpools for rented cars (eg traveling to conference, concert etc.) integration w facebook


Instigating Exploration: matching people with common interest to allow newcomers into a city interact w the community and spaces. Gamification with “experience points”, leveling up. Social data pool. Leverage local’s recommendations (‘Folsom Street Fair’, ‘Dolores Park’) Get points for visiting locations, sharing rides, renting Hertz cars. Find a “Hertz buddy” with similar interests.




Car Fleet Command
car apps today built around owners, not temporary users like Hertz renters. Take an existing owner app like Tesla and build a fleet operator controlled app. Reservation, key held inside car, unlock w renters phone, pre-air condition car, return car, revoke privileges, review renters agreements, FAQ onscreen. Admin interface: battery info, next scheduled pickup, off peak hour charging for lower cost.


Michael Driving Buddy