February 01, 2017

On the road to the future of automotive tech

Recent tech fairs such as CES in Las Vegas, have shown us autonomous cars becoming the big technological advancement on everyone's lips; including ours. We have been looking at this revolution and have been developing our own innovative contributions.

Autonomous vehicles (AV's) are going to be a part of our future, and that's a fact! Tesla had been paving the way, but CES 2017 showed us an oncoming revolution, comprised of some companies we already knew were involved such as BMW and Chrysler; but also some newcomers such as Faraday. They all converged in Las Vegas to showcase their vision of autonomous driving. This phenomenon has attracted the attention of non – car manufacturing companies too; with names like Google, WM Motors, and LeEco entering the market. Trends also suggest that the Chinese markets will be the first to be broken by this new innovative tech. However, before AV's become commonplace, we have to undergo a transition that will see semi-autonomous cars come on the scene first, where the attention of a driver is still required. How these cars will operate, function and switch between manual and automated modes; presents a challenging but interesting task for designers, of which they are eager to tackle.

Over the last two years, we at VanBerlo worked on several AV projects with the goal of designing a new and exciting experience for the oncoming tide of autonomous driving. Connected cars generate more and more information for the user. We followed this pattern by creating a context aware information push; this system stands on the forefront of innovation as it not only delivers information, but contextualizes it based on the driver and environment. Aspects such as traffic, weather and the drivers internal state (heart rate, fatigue etc) act to filter information for a tailored driving experience.

We also innovated an extra large head up display combined with gesture control and haptic feedback. This ensures that the driver can interact with the cars internal systems without having to lose focus on the road. This delivers an interface that is seamless and simplistic, but is above all safe for the user. We tried and tested different mode switches using a simulator and demonstration model that we have designed and built in house in order to reach these conclusions.

We conducted this prototyping on the back of systemic fieldwork in the form of design research, and visits to multiple conferences and tradeshows. This gave our team an invaluable insight into autonomous and connected driving; allowing us to ideate, create and validate our concepts in an early stage, and then to iterate and improve! We were ultimately able to approach the Human Machine Interface (HMI) of a car from a user experience perspective as opposed to an automotive one; a unique alternative to conventional approaches. We see ourselves as one in a growing number of non-automotive companies contributing to a complete new vision. How people interact with their car both internally and externally is about to change forever; we are glad to help our clients develop their future in line with this change.

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