Breana Noble The Detroit News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Mimi Nguyen and Carolina Harris, two badass women who know a thing or two about trucks. Some much so, they developed the "Know & Go" mobile app. It uses augmented reality to provide information about the Ram 1500 TRX's features.
As a manager of the team generating ideas for new features on Fiat Chrysler vehicles, Carolina Harris knows the automaker's latest models bristle with more technology than ever before.
So when her teen children began getting behind the wheel for the first time, she saw a need for a tool to introduce them and others to the parts and capabilities of the machine.
Mimi Nguyen, left, and Carolina Harris with the new Ram 1500 TRX for which they developed the "Know & Go" mobile app. It uses augmented reality to provide information about the truck's features.
"For my kids, as early drivers, I thought how could they have a tool they could use to quickly learn?" said Harris, who has been with the automaker for almost 21 years and studied business management in Mexico. "So many people, they don't know that they can potentially improve their driving experience by pushing a button or using autonomous features while driving the highway."
Harris eventually teamed with Mimi Nguyen, Fiat Chrysler's propulsion systems program manager, to develop the "Know & Go" app that uses augmented reality to help owners explore the features of their vehicle at their own pace. They presented their idea to executives in June at the Italian American automaker's first-ever "Pitch Night," and the app will debut with the new 2021 Ram 1500 TRX performance pickup truck set to begin hitting dealers before the end of the year.
After downloading the app, owners will be able to point their phone camera at the vehicle and virtual circles will appear in the camera view on the steering wheel, ignition button, and other parts on which the user can tap to learn more. Selecting them will show an image of the part with its name and description. The app tracks the user's progress, includes how-to videos and can link them to a digital owners' manual for more.
Using the Know & Go app, owners will be able to point their phone camera at the vehicle and virtual circles will appear in the camera view on the steering wheel, ignition button and other parts on which the user can tap to learn more. Selecting them will show an image of the part with its name and description.
"It's a perfect fit for what the auto industry is going through and as cars are getting more advanced," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for automotive search-engine iSeeCars.com. "The miniature phonebook-sized manual that you have to wade through feels like you are an archaeologist mining for the information. There's been steps in this digital direction, but the AR components plus the comprehensive features beyond AR make it probably one of the more advanced versions at this point."
Augmented reality is a digital interactive experience where a virtual image is placed on top of a real-world environment. "It's a quick way and easy way to learn about anything," Nyugen saud,
The 12-year veteran of the automaker had been toying with how that technology could address her previous work in consumer research that had taught her many customers are unaware of all of their vehicle's capabilities.
"There are so many features and capabilities that we've given them for fantastic overall ownership of their vehicles," Nguyen said. "But we also recognize it's all for naught if they don't realize they are there."
FCA's Silicon Valley-esque Pitch Night focused on connectivity and infotainment helped Nguyen to focus her idea on paper. She envisioned creating several different tools using augmented reality to educate vehicle owners. Employees submitted more than 500 ideas, and online voting allowed their peers to whittle them down to 50. Company leaders selected the top 14 to compete.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 14 teams gave a "Shark Tank"-like presentation over video conference and answered questions from CEO Mike Manley; Mark Stewart, chief operating officer of North America; and other leaders. Know & Go was the top winner.
"We were so excited," Harris said. "I screamed so hard."
With their idea validated, the real work began to get a minimum viable product ready in three months. Harris and Nguyen continue as lead program managers of a small, "but mighty," Nguyen notes, team all while continuing their day jobs of developing new ideas for future models and working on several advanced future engine programs. They also are collaborating with a supplier in creating the app.
This passion project, as Nguyen calls it, will launch in a few months with an undetermined-as-of-yet number of pages to explore. The managers are focused on launching the app with the TRX, but hope it can extend across the lineup. Its unconventional development amid the pandemic while employees are working from home, Nguyen added, complements the nontraditional nature of the TRX, which features Ram's first paddle shifts, five on-road driving modes, three off-road modes, and more.
"The TRX has several nontraditional features and exciting capabilities that are coming out," Nguyen said. "We're excited that Know & Go will be able to inform our customers about their vehicles. It makes perfect sense." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.