The LA Auto Show always delivers something for everyone and lately that’s been expanding to even include the Silicon Beach set with the addition of an annual hackathon!

It’s being called Code AutoMobility LA and it’s an automotive and technology industry facing convergence event that’s ultimately meant to make all of our driving lives easier in Southern California and beyond.

I grabbed some time from Alexis Evans, Director of Communications for the LA Auto Show and AutoMobility LA to hear more about the hackathon event, how it might one-day help transform our precious windshield-time and what’s at stake for the winning hackers.

Tom Smith of iDriveSoCal sits across a conference table from Alexis Evans of Code AutoMobility LA & the LA Auto Show


Recording date – November 2, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA

Calling All Mobility / Automotive Hackers

Alexis Evans: We’re not calling it a hackathon this year. We’re calling it Code AutoMobility LA. Anyone can participate… the theme this year is… getting drivers from point A to point B safely, as well as coming up with seamless, in-car payment solutions.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal the podcast about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California.

Tom Smith here and today I am at the LA Auto Show headquarters, the office, downtown Los Angeles as we prep for the LA Auto Show and joining me is Alexis Evans, who’s the Director of Communications for the LA Auto Show as well AutoMobility LA, which is kind of like the industry shindig that happens before, it’s all before right?

Artsy LA Auto Shot Entrance sign

Alexis Evans: It’s all before. So it’s four days before the consumer show. It’s B2B show. It’s also formerly known as our press and trade days. So this is when we have our conference on Tuesday, and then Wednesday and Thursday is when we have the vehicle debuts, so think sheets coming off of cars, really cool spectacles for all major OEMs.

Tom Smith: And if you want to get invited to that kind of thing, you just start up some kind of iDriveSoCal like Podcast and you can go.

Tom Smith: Alexis thank you for joining me.

Alexis Evans: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Tom Smith: So, and the focus of this podcast is going to be not only the AutoMobility LA portion, but a piece of that, and that is the all exciting hackathon. You guys have done this for how many years now?

Alexis Evans: We’ve done this for a couple of years. We actually, it’s kind of an interesting story, because we kind of got pulled into being a part of a hackathon a couple of years ago, I want to say in 2014.

Automotive Hackathon Beginnings

Ford was actually one of the first automakers to do some type of automotive type hackathon. They started at CTIA.

Tom Smith: CTIA.

Alexis Evans: Which is its kind of like a tech conference that takes place every year. I believe it’s in Vegas. I would have to double check that.

Tom Smith: Okay. So Ford started the hackathon at another conference, called CTIA?

Alexis Evans: Correct. And then they did another one that they took that same hackathon and they brought it to connect a car expo, which is now known as AutoMobility LA.

Tom Smith: Got it.

Alexis Evans: So, from there, that’s kind of how we got tied into it. And then we would have hackathons at Connected Car Expo, AutoMobility LA, through Mojio, Mojio would have their hackathon on our site.

Tom Smith: Mojio.

Alexis Evans: It’s another-

Tom Smith: Is that an acronym as well?

Alexis Evans, Communications Director for the LA Auto Show & AutoMobility LA is interviewed by Tom Smith

Alexis Evans: No.

Tom Smith: How do you spell Mojio?

Alexis Evans: M-O-J-I-O.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Alexis Evans: So, they would hold their hack event at Connect A Car Expo, and then we obviously changed, we rebranded ourselves to AutoMobility LA. And then last year was the first year where we actually hosted our own hackathon.

Tom Smith: Okay!

Alexis Evans: So, we put everything together. It was presented by Honda Innovations, and it ended up being a huge success. We had a little over 100 people, hackers who came in and last year’s theme was about a driving experience and trying to make things a little bit easier when you’re trying to get to a major sporting event, so you can think about-

Tom Smith: Wow that was pretty specific, huh? Alright.

Vehicle Technology & Major Events

Alexis Evans: Well I mean you think about major events like FIFA, like assume that they had decided to come to LA or the Olympics, that has been a huge topic.

Tom Smith: Or the World Series here that the Dodgers just-

Alexis Evans: Or the World Series that the Dodgers sadly blew, much to my husband’s demise. He’s not exactly happy about that still, and he’s still recovering. But yeah, huge sporting events. How can you get from point A to point B safely?

Alexis Evans: Last year’s winner was a company, a startup I believe, by the name of Tribal Scale and what they developed was a safe driver experience, and it was an application that they developed where the city of Los Angeles could pretty much predict a collision and in 30 minutes somebody would be there to help out, whether it’s-

Tom Smith: Predict a collision based on traffic patterns?

“…they took that same hackathon and brought it to connect a car expo, which is now AutoMobility LA.”

Alexis Evans: Correct.

Tom Smith: So, traffic’s getting so congested, this is a spot, or this is a-

Alexis Evans: This could have the potential of causing an issue for the guy in Honda and the guy in the Mercedes in front of him. You know this could be a potential-

Tom Smith: Did that become a thing?

Alexis Evans: I don’t know actually.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Alexis Evans: But they, it was the idea and we all know, if you’ve been to LA, you know that there is an unbelievable amount of traffic.

Tom Smith: A great time getting around. Awesome time. Love it.

Alexis Evans: It’s super simple to get from point A to point B.

Tom Smith: No problem.

Alexis Evans: Not a problem at all.

There’s No Traffic in LA – Right!

Tom Smith: Get in your car and don’t plan on getting frustrated at all, because it’s just going to be smooth sailing.

Alexis Evans: You’ll be there in 20 minutes or less. Everything in LA takes 20 minutes. That’s the story I’m going to tell for the rest of my life.

Tom Smith: 20 minutes to get to your car.

Alexis Evans: Exactly. exactly. So it was a really, it’s a very, very cool idea, and I think that was why they were the winners. The prizes were, the grand prize winner was $7,500. So they got a check. There were some pictures taken, and that was it.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Alexis Evans: This year, it’s gotten a lot bigger. We have huge players that wanted to be a part of this event. And we’re extremely pleased about it. So this year’s sponsors are Visa and General Motors.

Tom Smith: Alright. A couple of small companies there.

“We’re not calling it a hackathon this year. We’re calling it Code AutoMobility LA…”

Alexis Evans: They’re minor. Super small.

Tom Smith: Participating. That’s good.

Alexis Evans: I’m sure people have never heard of them before. And so they’re involved and it’s been quite the experience because this is the first time where we’ve had a major, I mean we had Honda Innovations, but this is the first time we’ve had two major public-facing companies that everybody knows.

Alexis Evans: You walk outside, you know who Visa is. You walk outside, you’ll see some form of a GM vehicle, so it’s a very big deal for us, and we’re really excited about it.

Tom Smith: Well good! Congratulations, and so what, so this is really year number two then for you guys.

Alexis Evans: Theoretically. Yeah.

Tom Smith: Basically. And the, I’m not a hacker, right?

Alexis Evans: I’m not either.

Code AutoMobility LA – Hackathon

Tom Smith: Not at all. Yeah no. So, with that in mind, the way that this thing works, is hackers or would-be hackers can sign up basically almost until the very start of the hackathon right?

Alexis Evans: Correct. So this year’s title, we’re not calling it a hackathon this year. We’re calling it Code AutoMobility LA. That’s what we’ve titled it this year, and then next year it’ll probably be titled something else, but for this year, Code AutoMobility LA is pretty easy for people to register.

They can go to It’s a mouthful. I know, but they can register there.

Tom Smith: We’ll put a link in the post. It won’t be a problem.

Alexis Evans: Yeah, but there’s a link there and they can just register. It’s free. So if you are a developer, a coder, it’s something that you’re interested in possibly participating in, you can definitely register to join.

Tom Smith: And is this something that is for an individual? Is it something for teams? Is it something for whomever?

Alexis Evans: It’s both actually. So if you’re by yourself, if you have a couple of friends, if it’s a company, anyone can participate in Code AutoMobility LA.

iDriveSoCal Podcast Interview at the LA Auto Show Headquarters conference table - 2018 Hackathon called Code AutoMobility LA

Tom Smith: And the theme this year is?

Alexis Evans: The theme this year is

Tom Smith: I’m pretty sure it’s improving the driving experience.

Alexis Evans: Well it’s tackling transportation and mobility issues, and basically getting drivers from point A to point B safely, as well as coming up with seamless, in-car payment solutions.

Tom Smith: Ah right.

Alexis Evans: So, let’s think about you’re trying to

Tom Smith: Pay for my Dodger dog as I’m sitting in traffic to park.

Safety & Convenience Connectivity Solutions

Alexis Evans: Exactly. So you’re in that massive traffic trying to get through Allegiance Park, and you want a hot dog as soon as you get there, and so you can do all of these things while you’re in the car, and then when you get to the stadium, you park down the street, however far you decide to park and you get to the stadium, and there’s your Dodger dog, just kind of waiting for you.

Alexis Evans: So those are the type of things that they’re kind of looking at. Just whatever it takes to make your driving experience safe.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Alexis Evans: And getting from point A to point B in a safe manner, which is very important. I mean we are, this is a connected world, right?

Tom Smith: Sure is.

Alexis Evans: We’re always on our phone. We always have a laptop. We’re always connected through Bluetooth or what have you, and Wi-Fi and I mean the list goes on and on and on. So we are continuing to become a more and more connected world, and so these are the things that are really important because we’re still driving until autonomy and autonomous cars become a sure thing-

“…sadly there are people who are injuring themselves and worse texting and driving…”

Tom Smith: Yeah that’s a ways off.

Alexis Evans: We’re still going to have to drive unless we’re taking some form of public transportation.

Tom Smith: Which everybody does in LA.

Alexis Evans: Which everyone does, which is why they’re no traffic. Right?

Tom Smith: Right. Public transportation’s huge in LA.

Alexis Evans: Exactly! So it’s a necessity, and these are conversations that we’re having, you know, sadly there are people who are injuring themselves and worse texting and driving, and they’re on their phone, they’re not paying attention to the road.

The Hackathon

So it’s these type of applications and these type of things that we’re looking for in this particular event that we’re having.

Tom Smith: And the event is when?

Alexis Evans: The event takes place on November 25th, and ends November 26th. So we have-

Tom Smith: So, it’s two days.

Alexis Evans: Let’s consider it like a day and a half.

Tom Smith: Is it kind of like registration and then like hors d’oeuvres and stuff and like chit chat with people and then get a good night’s rest, get up and knock it out in the morning?

Alexis Evans: Well no. I mean you don’t you have a good night’s rest.

Tom Smith: Burn the midnight oil?

“You’re in fact burning the midnight oil… there’ll be all types of really cool booths there and video games.”

Alexis Evans: You’re in fact burning the midnight oil. So there’ll be all types of really cool booths there and video games.

Tom Smith: So, you guys have Red Bull sponsoring it or anything?

Alexis Evans: We should.

Tom Smith: Monster energy or something.

Alexis Evans: I’m sure they’ll, not them per se, but I’m sure there will be some Red Bull or some type of Monster available for people to consume.

Tom Smith: So, do you have like a viewing area? Could the general public come and see and watch the hackers in their natural environment?

Alexis Evans: There isn’t really like a viewing area. I mean if people-

Tom Smith: You guys going to live stream it or anything?

Alexis Evans: We might. We’re thinking about it.

Tom Smith: Really? I’m kind of joking. It kind of could be cool. I might check in on it.

Alexis Evans: I think it would be really cool. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a hackathon.

How it Works

Tom Smith: I haven’t.

Alexis Evans: I’ve been to one, and it was, I come from the tech world. I lived up in San Francisco for a very long time, and that was where my passion for technology kind of developed, but I had an opportunity to go and see a hackathon and it was pretty intense.

I mean these kids are in, there were a couple of kids that were in hoodies and they’re just typing and they’re talking and they’re talking in code.

Tom Smith: Like they’re playing World Series of Poker or something.

Alexis Evans: It’s insane. It is the most insane thing, but it’s very cool. And then you know, midnight, one o’clock rolls around, and some people are up, some people are sleeping. Some people are sleeping underneath tables, chairs, things along those lines.

Tom Smith discusses Code AutoMobility LA with Alexis Evans - it's a hackathon really

Tom Smith: So, are they generally late teens, early 20s, 20-somethings or do you have any older hackers?

Alexis Evans: There are some older hackers.

Tom Smith: In their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s beyond.

Alexis Evans: The cool thing about hacking is there’s no age limit to this. It’s of all ages. Last year there were some people who were in their 30’s, and late 30’s, 40’s and things along those lines.

So there’s no age limit to that. These are people who are simply participating because they want to try and do something good for now, for LA, but something that can turn into something even greater.

Tom Smith: Sure, sure. And there’s as far as what I get, not that I would ever be able to do it, but what I get as a hacker, should I win? It’s cash and some kind of exposure or bragging rights or what do I win? What’s at stake here Alexis?

Code AMLA Hackathon Prizing

Alexis Evans: Bragging rights is the first thing. I mean that’s first, but we have, there was $85,000 in cash and prizes, so first place will receive $40,000 in Visa pre-paid gift cards. Second place winner will receive $30,000 and third place winner will receive $15,000.

Tom Smith: So, first place receives how much?

Alexis Evans: 40.

Tom Smith: 40-grand. So, 40-grand in Visa pre-paid gift cards. I believe that’s enough to turn around an buy a GM vehicle.

Alexis Evans: It could be. Yeah, it is actually. It is. Or your college tuition if you’re in college. There’s a lot of things you could do.

Tom Smith: Many, many options. Will there be any possibility of a venture arm of Visa or a venture arm of GM saying hey, this is something we want to take the next step and possibly develop further?

“…first place will receive $40,000 in Visa pre-paid gift cards. Second place winner will receive $30,000 and third place winner will receive $15,000.”

Alexis Evans: I don’t know. I think it kind of depends. I mean right now we’re still in the process of getting people to register for the show, and I think that’s more of a Visa and GM question, but my thought is that if anybody if a reporter sees something that they really like, they’ll talk to them.

If there’s a company who kind of rolls in and because they’ve registered for AutoMobility LA and they want to check it out, and they see something really cool, I’m sure that they’ll talk to them.

Alexis Evans: So, while I can’t respond on behalf of GM and Visa-

Tom Smith: You can’t? You can’t speak on behalf of GM and Visa? Come on!

Alexis Evans: No. I mean the last time I checked-

Tom Smith: Those rinky-dink little firms.

Big Names Behind the Hack

Alexis Evans: On my business card it does not say Visa or GM, but I can say there have been some success stories in the past, and we’re just looking forward to seeing what solutions people come up with this year.

Tom Smith: And how is it going to be judged? Who are the judges? What’s the criteria?

Alexis Evans: So, we have some really great judges this year. We have a reporter for Fortune. We have someone from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, someone from Visa, someone from GM, and a professor from Stanford. So we’ve got some pretty high name people.

Tom Smith: Got some qualifications.

Alexis Evans: I mean they’re pretty good. So, in terms of its more about what’s realistic. What’s something that can actually happen and whether or not this is an idea that’s kind of like a shot in the dark if a company could actually take it and make it happen.

Alexis Evans: And creativity. You don’t want to do the same thing over and over and over again, so creativity is going to be key, but also whether or not something is realistic, or if it’s kind of like a shot in the dark.

“…creativity is going to be key, but also whether or not something is realistic…”

Tom Smith: Right. What could actually be implemented?

Alexis Evans: Correct.

Tom Smith: I personally think that there has to be a better way for us to, I mean Apple, Car Play, and Android Auto are great, but it seems to be there’s got to be a better way for us to once we get in our cars, put our phones away and not touch them.

Solutions Needed & Winner Announcements

Alexis Evans: Yeah. I mean it’s really hard. It kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier. We’re all super connected. And it’s hard for us to put that phone down. You hear your phone vibrate or make a sound, whatever you’ve chosen that day. And you immediately pick it up.

Alexis Evans: You know, people sleep with their phones next to them, so these are really important issues to tackle because you never know who’s in your car or the car in front of you. You could have a kid in the back seat, and the person in front of you could have a number of people, so it’s important.

Tom Smith: I was just about to say. Come March of next year. Your world’s going to change. Congratulations.

Alexis Evans: Thank you very much. It’ll change a lot.

“Code AutoMobility LA is going to be taking place November 25th and 26th.”

Tom Smith: Alexis is expecting, and due in March, so me having a 13-month-old at this point, every time my phone rings, my heart skips a beat. What’s going on? You know, checking in.

So that’s a whole ‘another dimension that you’re about to enter that I’ve entered, that so many parents listening they’ve already done this. Been there done that, but they know what we’re talking about.

Alexis Evans: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, the hackathon is not being called a hackathon. What is it being called again?

Alexis Evans: Code AutoMobility LA.

Tom Smith: Code AutoMobility LA is going to be taking place November 25th and 26th.

Alexis Evans: Correct.

Tom Smith: And is that a Saturday, Sunday? Is that a Friday, Saturday? Is it Tuesday, Wednesday?

Alexis Evans: It is a Sunday, Monday and then the winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 27th, during the AutoMobility LA conference.

Tom Smith: Okay. So boom, boom, boom.

Are You In?

Alexis Evans: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Smith: Alright, and can you disclose how many registrants you have at this point?

Alexis Evans: Sure. Right now we’re at 175. That was a couple days ago, and we just opened registration on October 23rd, and here it is November 2nd, and we’re getting people who are registering. So I’m sure that number has increased since Tuesday. But it’s pretty impressive.

Tom Smith: And where is this physically going to take place?

Alexis Evans: So, it’s going to take place inside the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Tom Smith: Alright.

The Four ACES
1. Autonomy
2. Connectivity
3. Electrification
4. Sharing

Alexis Evans: On the second floor in West Hall. So if anybody out there knows about the convention center, it’s split. There’s west hall and there’s south hall. So it’ll be in West Hall on the second floor in 403 A and B.

So if you registered for AutoMobility LA and you’re somebody who wants to go and check it out, by all means, come by and look and see kind of what’s going on.

Tom Smith: And it’s free to register and you can register up until the day of?

Alexis Evans: Correct.

Tom Smith: Alright, well fantastic. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention about the AutoMobility LA or the-

Alexis Evans: Code AutoMobility LA.

Tom Smith: The hackathon that I’m not supposed to call a hackathon?

Alexis Evans: No, you know what I think this year’s going to be great. We’re really excited, we’ve got some great keynote speakers that will be participating in the show. We have the president of Aston Martin, Lagonda, who will be our first speaker, and a lot of great panels that are talking about topics ranging from autonomy, connectivity, electrification and sharing, which is our Four Aces. But it’s going to be great. We-

The Four Aces

Tom Smith: Four Aces? I mentioned this in a previous podcast, to make a plug, I mentioned this in a previous podcast with Lefty Tsironis, that we did about a month ago on LA Auto Show, kind of big picture, but your four aces again are?

Alexis Evans: Autonomy, connectivity, electrification and sharing.

Tom Smith: There you go.

Alexis Evans: So, all of the panels and speakers are kind of-

Tom Smith: Surrounding that.

Alexis Evans: They’re all surrounding those four pillars. But we’re expecting some great things to be said, great announcements. We have a couple of car reveals that’ll happen on Tuesday, and it’s just it’s going to be a really exciting show.

Alexis Evans of the LA Auto Show explains its industry facing hackathon to Tom Smith of iDriveSoCal

This’ll be third show, and it continues to get better and better the longer I’m here, so I’m personally excited to see what all transpires from it.

Tom Smith: I’m excited as well. Well Alexis Evans, Director of Communications for the LA Auto Show and AutoMobility LA, and mother to be.

Alexis Evans: Yes.

Tom Smith: Congratulations.

Alexis Evans: Thank you very much. I’m excited. We’ll stay tuned for that.

Tom Smith: You bet. And thank you so much for being on the iDriveSoCal Podcast.

Alexis Evans: Yeah, thanks for having me again. We’ll see you at the show.

Tom Smith: Absolutely. For iDriveSoCal, I am Tom Smith, thank you as always for tuning in.