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Interview with Kuba Waliński by Paweł Mazur, Magazine elektromobilni.pl
Happy Team's technological solutions have contributed to generating nearly 10 billion PLN in revenue for its clients over the past few years. With a team of skilled and enthusiastic developers and some passionate advocates of zero-emission drives, the company specialises in offering e-mobility software. In an inspiring interview with Kuba Waliński, CEO of Happy Team, elektromobilni.pl delves into topics such as meeting business objectives, the irreversible nature of the drive transformation, and the challenges faced by automotive giants striving to keep pace with Tesla in e-mobility software development. It's an intriguing read. Enjoy!
Let's start from the beginning. What does Happy Team do?
Happy Team is a group of experienced programmers and electric vehicle enthusiasts. We work for various industries, such as electromobility, logistics, and e-commerce. Our specialisation is software development, including top-notch e-mobility software, technological consulting, and team augmentation.
You work in the EV sector by creating e-mobility software, among other things. What does Happy Team offer in this segment, and who are your clients?
Our first client in the electromobility sector was Evyon from Norway. We collaborated to develop software for monitoring the battery's condition and physical properties, such as temperature, voltage, and current, and for analysing and predicting cell durability using artificial intelligence. This collaboration gave us valuable experience that we can use to develop e-mobility software for home charging stations and battery management. We also offer customised dashboards for electric vehicles that businesses of all sizes can use for their fleets and mobile applications for charging networks. Drawing on our extensive experience in developing software for the logistics industry, we can apply our expertise to develop solutions for managing EV fleets.
What benefits do clients have from the Happy Team's services for the e-mobility sector?
The most important thing for us is to achieve the client's business goals. We start each cooperation with a good understanding of the business needs, allowing us to propose effective software. This is the main benefit for our clients. We recently summed up that over the past 5 years, our technological solutions have brought clients almost 10 billion PLN in revenue. We also create excellent and efficient code using the latest technologies. As a result, our clients receive stable software that is scalable and can be developed in the future without incurring high costs.
How has technological progress affected the development of electromobility?
There is no turning back from electromobility. We will see more and more electric vehicles and a more extensive charging infrastructure. Manufacturers should use technological progress to create the best possible e-mobility software, as this is what electric vehicle users interact with daily. Poor software, with errors, slow performance, and an unintuitive user interface, can significantly impact the car's overall perception. One well-known electric car manufacturer is losing customers precisely because of its underdeveloped software. Competing with other manufacturers and revolutionising the industry without focusing on excellent e-mobility software is impossible. No serious customer will buy a car if the reviews of its software are bad.
Is fully autonomous driving the end of technological progress in the software segment? If not, what's next?
Entirely autonomous driving can completely change our way of thinking. Will we give up the idea of owning cars and instead opt to order autonomous vehicles that would take us wherever we need to go? This could turn the entire industry upside down, and it's difficult to predict anything with certainty. One thing is sure – this is not the end of progress in e-mobility software development; quite the opposite.
Will electronics in modern cars eventually replace the driver, and when will this happen? Can we fully rely on it? My question is rooted in cases where drivers trusted electronics too much, which did not always end well.
We are going back to the previous question. In the USA, electronics in cars have already replaced the driver. The solution tested in Tesla currently handles over 99% of road situations, and the driver needs to take over control once every few hundred miles. Such efficiency is possible thanks to the enormous amount of data Tesla collects, which is then processed in massive computing centres and used to train artificial intelligence. It's a matter of time before cars can drive without a driver.
However, it's important to remember that, for now, the driver must monitor the situation. Until fully autonomous cars are developed, the driver is responsible for what happens on the road. You can use technology as a support, but you still need to keep your finger on the pulse.
You've been driving a Tesla electric car for many years. What are your impressions? As a technology expert, what's your take on its software?
The software in Tesla is in a completely different league than that of other manufacturers. For traditional manufacturers of combustion engine cars, who have also ventured into producing electric vehicles, software remains their greatest challenge. This is mainly because they lack the necessary expertise in e-mobility software and struggle to build effective development teams. It even cost the CEO of Volkswagen his position: a separate company was established to develop software for their electric cars, but there were significant delays and postponed car launches due to the software not being ready.
Tesla, hailing from California's Silicon Valley, excels in e-mobility software. They apply similar agile principles to building cars as they do to software development, which gives them a definitive edge. They simply don't acknowledge that something cannot be done.
Initially, Tesla faced issues with the quality of the car's physical elements: some parts were creaking, some were squeaking, and some appeared cheap or misaligned. However, this situation improved rapidly, and currently, Tesla is on par with European and American competitors.
This company stands out for its innovative approach to car manufacturing. They incorporate innovations onto the assembly lines as well. For instance, Tesla uses the world's largest presses to cast their cars' entire front and rear in aluminum. In contrast, other manufacturers assemble these parts from multiple welded components, a more time-consuming and expensive process.
Tesla's production lines are meticulously designed, with each station maximising efficiency. Every second is crucial in car manufacturing, focusing on minimising both time and costs. To my knowledge, no other manufacturer has yet achieved this efficiency level.
Tesla implements changes very quickly. Their timescale is not measured in years like at other manufacturers – alterations to the car's design can be introduced practically daily.
Moreover, they have developed specialised e-mobility software to manage the entire car production process in the factory and monitor each station. Tests are conducted rapidly, partly due to automation. Tesla is recognised for its tendency to avoid off-the-shelf solutions and develop its own software, including ERP systems. This strategic approach significantly bolsters their competitive edge.
Do you see Elon Musk's California-based company as a model for other car manufacturers in terms of e-mobility software? If so, why?
Indeed, I do. For all the reasons I mentioned earlier. Consider something as simple as a mobile app – in Tesla, you can start the car from your phone, activate the air conditioning, check the car's location, and summon the vehicle to your location. Authorising someone else to use the car is easy. These features are not typically found in other manufacturers' apps, which often have limited functionality and run slowly (based on my experience with another electric car). In Tesla, everything works well – even if there's a momentary issue due to an update, they promptly fix it.
Why do some automotive companies struggle more with software than Tesla despite having almost unlimited resources? Where does the problem lie?
The market is undergoing dynamic changes. Tesla, originating from Silicon Valley and adhering to agile principles, naturally holds an advantage over manufacturers who are still learning these methods. Companies following a more traditional approach invest more money and employ more people yet yield inferior results. This is due to the clash between agile and waterfall approaches, a well-known phenomenon in the software industry.
How do you assess the development of electromobility in Poland? What are the opportunities and obstacles?
Over the last three years, there have been visible investments in the charging network. Greenway stands out, as well as Orlen. Thanks to the expanding network of chargers, driving in Poland is becoming more pleasant. However, there are still issues to be solved. For example, usually, only two connectors are available, and when a second car is plugged in, the charger's power is divided in half, prolonging the charging time. Complaints about the power for new chargers are also heard, but that's a complex issue related to Poland's power grid, which might not be adequately prepared for such heavy loads in one location. On the other hand, I once spoke (while charging my car) with an inspector from the Technical Inspection Office, who claimed that charging operators rarely submit correct and complete documentation, hence the prolonged process for new charging stations. The truth is probably somewhere between these two perspectives.
In Poland, a law requires new buildings' underground garages or parking lots to prepare installations for expandable chargers. I wonder if this fosters a positive electromobility environment, especially among sceptics or opponents. Yet, I believe this technology will prove its superiority, leading to the natural phasing out of combustion engines.