December 14, 2018

Designing for safety in the digital age

Earlier this week, on Thursday 13 December, VanBerlo hosted a live webinar to discuss the topics that we encounter in our design practice. With VanBerlo being increasingly active in the field of automotive user experiences, our first topic on ‘Safety in the digital Age’ was a logical pick! Bas Bruining, one of our design experts in the automotive field, elaborated on the challenging theme of in-car user experiences. In case you have missed it, here’s a short recap.

The question of when autonomous driving will happen is the million-dollar question. People often seem to think about Level 5 conditions, where users can sit back and relax as the car is able to drive itself without human interventions. Something completely different from what we know today! But we feel that, next to technological maturity, a major roadblock in this development is legislation. And that is something we can't change as a designer.

From our perspective as a design agency, we are most interested in the human perspective. We therefore currently mainly look up to Level 4. In this situation, the car is able to drive itself but still needs the user to take responsibility for operating the car. Here, we see a number of issues that we canaddress. The main are authority transitions, mode confusion and managing (over) trust-issues. Those issues all deal with how we as humans react to situations, and how well we are equipped to work together with machines mentally.

Right now, reality is that people will use apps and phones, and that they are very poorly equipped to assess the risks that they take while driving; they will take great risks to see what the 'bleep-bleep' on their phone was all about. We looked into a UX design that would be able to accommodate this constant desire for connectivity, but still ensure that people keep their focus on where it needs to be while driving.

To do that, we had to break with interaction conventions that we know today. We viewed the available technology and how it could serve in a situation where the main task is driving the car, focusing on the road. Without the requirement of visual engagement. Interestingly, that lead to a solution that combined gesture control, a touch screen center stack and a Heads Up Display (HUD). For more information on this project, please watch the complete webinar here.

This shows that a touchscreen can be used in a car, as long as you're willing to look beyond the obvious and dare to break with regular paradigms. At VanBerlo, we always look at problems from different angles, figure out the use context and focus on the human perspective. We create prototypes to see what does and doesn't work. That way we come up with solutions that show new and alternative possibilities.

If you want to hear more about 'Safety in the digital Age' or Bas' project, or if this triggers you to discuss a problem that you have, feel free to drop a line at And stay tuned, for there is more to come! In 2019 we will be hosting more webinars to discuss the topics that we encounter in our design practice. We hope to meet you at our offices in Eindhoven or Ypenburg to discuss more in-depth how we could help you with your challenges.

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