Future Vehicle Concepts – Leveraging technology values through design, from UX to VR
Are you ready to face the automotive revolution? It’s time to change gears – because the auto industry is rolling into a disruptive change that shakes its very foundation.
Key Human-Machine Interface (HMI) trends that have shaped the industry in 2017 are driving car design to new heights. And while fully autonomous cars may still be some years away, other developments made in this industry push manufacturers to reach that end goal.
From virtual touchscreens to 3-D imaging, cars have come a long way from their past models. Some notable HMI trends include:
Multimodality: BMW has created the virtual touchscreen, the HoloActive Touch, which includes gesture and speech control in addition to direct touchscreen control. This example of multimodality is something we expect to see a lot of in the coming years.
3-D Display: Conti created a display on a 3-D surface, incorporating different layers the user can interact with either via eye tracking or by directly making a selection on the steering wheel.
Augmented Reality: Conti also developed augmented reality displays. Due to their nature, these displays are small, and we can expect to see even smaller displays in the future car.
The above trends and other factors are leading us to a transformational change that doesn’t just affect the trip from point A to point B, but the entire way we live – both in and outside the car. And as our role changes from driver, to supervisor, to passenger – we have to be ready for that drastic lifestyle change.
For example, in the future car charging stations could become the norm. Transitioning from gas to electricity in order to adapt to the rise in gas prices and the scarcity of oil could lead the way to optimized charging stations. To appeal to customers, they might feature amenities like shops and restaurants to help pass the time, promoting the user to “charge while you eat”.
Cars could also fully change from private ownership to shared ownership, which we are already seeing through services like Uber and Lyft. In the future, a car could drive to your location, drop you off at your destination and then locate its own parking space until the next customer requests it. This places more pressure on developers, as they have to think about the needs and expectations of every customer that chooses to borrow the car, including but not limited to how mobility concepts should look and how users will interact with information processed and displayed in the vehicle.
Just like how humans gradually integrated the smartphone into their normal day-to-day lives, experiences with future vehicles will just be a part of standard digital lifestyles –whether a car docks at an apartment window or is an extended part of a living room. This lifestyle change will affect the devices you use in the car as well, likely being integrated into the car itself. The truth is, the new generation of “phone sapiens” spends more time on their phone than watching TV or spending time with loved ones. For instance, 60 billion Whatsapp messages are sent per day, really putting an emphasis on how important digital communication is. Immersed in a digital lifestyle, our cars will have to accommodate so users are never bored on the road.
The challenge for autonomous driving
With how “plugged in” we are into the digital world, autonomous driving should be an easy change to get used to. But that is not the case – it takes conscious effort.
Consider airplanes, which have had autopilot capabilities for nearly 40 years. Even so, a trainer is still required to learn how to use the autopilot function. It turns out, the more the pilot trusts the plane, the slower their reaction speed is at taking over when necessary. This is due to the sense of disbelief the pilot feels when in the midst of a plane malfunction, slowing the conscious decision to take the wheel. The pilot’s mind also tends to wander more when investing more trust in the plane, making takeover even more difficult.
While it still may take some time for autonomous vehicles to become the standard, we will be entering the stages of partial and high autonomous capabilities beforehand. This may confuse consumers – “Why should I invest in an autonomous car when I’m still held responsible for taking control of my vehicle?” But consider this: the gradual move toward fully-autonomous driving could be what we need, as it allows users time to gradually grow their trust in the car instead of making an abrupt change.
What needs to happen? It’s all up to developers
To adapt to the changing automotive environment and make futuristic cars more appealing, users shouldn’t have to adapt to the car – the car should adapt to users.
This means as the amount of integrated features and displays increases – with different sizes, aspect ratios, and content on each – developers need to know how to specify and scale graphics efficiently to keep up. Further, the increasing demand for personalization and design flexibility promotes out-of-the-box thinking, making way for unique designs to catch the consumer eye. Since the electrical autonomous car will ideally boast being accident-free and sans engine, it could look very different – such as becoming a private meeting space, incorporating more glass, or looking like a giant smartphone.
To accommodate constantly emerging features and trends, the HMI development process must become more efficient, agile, and require scalable software.
What should you do?
The automotive industry is changing NOW, and Luxoft is ready. The adjustment from driver to passenger pushes car manufacturers to change their messaging focus from function to feature – emphasizing the comfort of the passenger. As a result, the car will be a very different place in the long run. Henry James, who authored The Great Good Place, mentioned there will be 3 “enjoyable places” for humans – at home, at work, and when mobile in the car.
Vice President UX Design
Olaf Preissner is an initiator of the UX/UI Design practice in Luxoft. He’s responsible for all automotive user experience design projects at Luxoft across the different locations including our Shanghai Design Studio. His focus is to develop state of the art solutions for advanced infotainment systems and mobility services.