Start-up Graphmasters: In the swarm on all roads
Traffic sucks. To help drivers reach their destination faster, a Hanover-based start-up has developed navigation software. The system may suggest different routes to users for the same destination. There are good reasons for this.
Actually, it is only a few minutes by car through Frankfurt to get from a hotel in the Idsteiner Straße to the "Rebstock" multi-storey car park. In fact, the traffic is also manageable: the IAA opened its doors to journalists only at the beginning, and the large crowd of visitors is still to come. Actually. But because of a roadblock, it takes much longer - the first appointment on-site is canceled.
If you'd been clever about how to get there on the IAA website, you would have come across the navigation app "Nunav". If you use the application to find your way to the Frankfurt Motor Show, you will receive a very personal route - which one exactly depends on whether you identify yourself as an exhibitor, journalist or visitor. The app also takes into account the VDA's car park management system, the routes planned by the City of Frankfurt for trade fair visitors and the requirements of Hessen Mobil, the state's highest authority for road and traffic management.
The software company behind it is a start-up company from Hanover called Graphmasters, whose stand could be found in the New Mobility World. "The VDA has booked us for the IAA," says company spokesman Alexander Meister. Graphmasters assumed that two percent of the IAA participants would find their way to the fair with the help of Nunav. "This makes us traffic-relevant. We are making traffic 16 percent better for everyone," says Meister. In the end, more than ten percent of the visitors came by car. The target we set ourselves is even more ambitious: "We want to bring Nunav onto the roads on a large scale.
Sebastian Heise, Christian Brüggemann and Iulian Nitescu founded Graphmasters in 2013. Shortly before, their idea had won first place in the Microsoft Imagine Cup: 100,000 euros in prize money and the same amount in the form of software support. The young company then developed its algorithms for three years; there are now 50 employees and next year, according to Meister, there will already be 80.
About Collaborative Routing
The navigation software Nunav should be able to do a lot better: Established routing systems send their users over similar roads, and in the end, they all end up on the same route. This means: Too many vehicles are on the road in too little space, the road network is not used properly. The software from Graphmasters does pretty much the opposite: Drivers receive different navigation instructions, an artificial intelligence predicts which capacities are available in the road network. The whole thing is called collaborative routing and is based on the system of swarm intelligence.
The system aggregates large amounts of data, whether from the authorities, smart infrastructure or information on the usual traffic load. Meister: "We know the peak loads for routes. A single additional car can cause the system to collapse." This vehicle then removes the app. According to Meister, ten different users could be suggested just as many different routes. The route itself is then not automatically the shortest.
Graphmasters has already worked several times with organizers of major events. For example in June, when two big concerts took place in Hamburg at the same time. In the software, virtual roads or already used parking spaces can be blocked.
The Crafter uses Nunav
While the app is free for end customers, Graphmasters earns money primarily in the logistics sector. According to Meister, all major courier express parcel (CEP) service providers are already using or testing the navigation software. Hermes is the first major customer. Nunav Courier is the name of the product for the delivery vehicles, it distributes departure data and can calculate large quantities of stops. It should not remain that way. Alexander Meister: "We are currently working on routing for trucks."
In the VW small van Crafter, the navigation system is now even in permanent use. "We want to get into the infotainment systems of the vehicles. That's why we want to develop further features for our software so that the automotive industry can discover us," says Meister. Currently, however, the system can only be used in the DACH region. In addition, manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz use their own systems with MBUX. For example, the Stuttgart-based manufacturer uses the address system What3words. But that doesn't matter, says Meister, Nunav could be linked to this mapping.
This article was first published in German by Automobil Industrie.