This blog post describes how to create trust between the future fully autonomous car and its user by including all the human sensory systems in the design of the human-car interaction.
As a part of my PhD study I’m attending the spectacular Design Innovation course, ME310 at the D.School at Stanford. We are designing ambient communication between a car and its user in the future fully autonomous vehicle. The project is stated by Renault and deals with the challenge on how to make people trust autonomous cars in their driving and performance skills.
What is ambient communication?
Well, basically in the field of product development it is all forms of non-explicit communication between a product and the user – like when your computer tells you about a new e-mail in your inbox by a sound or when the cooktop indicates which hotplate is still warm even though it is not turned on anymore.
The more our every day products become intelligent and connected to the internet, the interaction between the devices can also count as ambient communication. This phenomenon is in buzzwords called: “The Internet of Things”. That could mean when a car recognizes a smart phone and adapt its seats and settings to the owner of the smartphone (this is already working in many cars to day).
Mapping a driving experience – sense by sense
In our project we are focusing on mapping all the kinds of information-flow that is going on in a car during a drive and try to understand which part of the communication that is most suitable to provide the user through ambient communication. Since humans are limited by our physiological sensory systems we approached the driving-experience from exactly that angle. Literally sense by sense!
The participants of the small experiment were driven around for 20 minutes. During the ride they were aloud to use one of the five senses three minutes at a time. Afterwards they had to describe which kind of experiences they noticed during the ride with each sense.
Even though it sounds a bit weird to e.g. smell or taste your car experience it is not irrelevant since these two sensory systems are closely connected with our emotional parts of our brains. Therefore they can have a strong influence on the overall car-experience. Did you for instance know that the smell of “new car” has been sold since the 90’s in spray cans?
The findings in our experiment
So in our small experiment we found that people tend to get more carsick when not being able to use their vision. Also the over-all car experience was affected by the lack of knowing where one was going or the duration of the overall. Therefore our further work will focus on situational awareness – short term and long term.
We are now testing initial prototypes that through light indicate how long the drive is from its end.
Also a communicating seat belt are being tested. This belt provides the user with a small vibration in either the left or right side seconds before the car actually turn to the respective side. Moreover we got curious in exploring olfactory interfaces (smelling interfaces) even more. This is a topic with increasing awareness in the field of human machine interaction.
In this way our experiment taught us not only which senses to stimulate during a driving experience, but at the same time provided us with feedback on what functions the user valued while driving. This will later on help us to develop ambient communication in fully autonomous vehicles that improve the overall user experience and the trust towards the car.
This blog entry was written by PhD Candidate Matilde Bisballe Jensen, at NTNU
– The Department of Engineering Design and Materials