Who is our Future Driver?

Who is our future driver?

The Story

According to Deloitte's University Press in The Future of Mobility, the next 25 years are going to be transformative for personal mobility. Autonomous cars are predicted to be on our roads and the sharing economy for transport is on the rise. So for my first graduate school project, along with three other classmates we decided to take on a future speculative brief that tackled mobility working with Moovel Labs. Our research found that companies, engineers, and designers are primarily focused on building the technical requirements necessary to create functioning driverless cars, such as navigation and artificial intelligence (AI) systems, peer-to-peer vehicle communications, and advanced LIDAR sensors. Stepping back from the technology, we wondered: What are the implications of removing the human driver? For our project we imagined different scenarios where an artificial intelligence was the driver. Our hope is to start a discussion to better answer - how do we design the right AI assistant for autonomous cars?

User Research

We conducted in depth interviews with people commuting in London, Uber drivers and employees who worked at bike/car sharing businesses to get a better understanding of current mobility problems. Our goal was to understand the problems now so that we could better design for the future.The main insights we gained were - 

1) A driver plays an important role in the car. They sometimes feel like they are therapists for their passengers and they also clean the car after certain rides with messy passengers. This made us wonder what our interactions would be like with a car when riding alone and if cars were shared who would have ownership and take car of it?
2) AI assistants will create different social interactions in the car. When travelling the driver is often the one with all the decision making power. Without a human driver who who will control the music/temperature? Will we each have our own AI assistants for the car and will we pay a premium for our preferences? 
4) Safety is a huge concern.  When we talked to an 8 year old boy Yael, he said he would be too afraid to go into a self driving car and couldn't imagine travelling without his parents. His parents and other parents with young kids felt the same. This opened a up a lot of concerns about the safety of autonomous cars especially for kids. Do we need to set up parental controls for the car? What happens if a car is hacked and how will an AI driver react when something goes wrong?

We realised that travel is messy and things don't always go according to plan and at the end of our research we had more questions than answers. How could we design the best AI driver when there were so many social situations we needed to address? Instead of designing a solution, we decided to create a series of videos to start visualising what these situations could like to gain awareness and start a conversation among our design network and Moovel Labs.

Final Outcomes

We selected a few scenarios we wanted to highlight, shot videos and exhibited our project at the Work in Progress show at the Royal College or Art. Below are the the videos we created.

This video explores interactions between people and an AI driver. What will it be like when you ride alone? Share a car? Get in an accident. Who has control?

This video explores an interaction with a young kid and an AI driver. How do we factor in age when we create the new future driver?

We explored the possibility that your AI driver will also be your navigator when you go walking, biking or take public transport. Here the AI makes decisions for you because it knows what you need the best.

Learnings and Next steps

Through our research I realised that with every cutting edge technology that  improves our lives there also unconsidered side effects and designing a perfect service solution for future mobility would not be a lucrative goal for our project. Instead we used design to create a conversation and get people to think about context and social interactions when it came to autonomous cars and not just a technological solution. At the the exhibition we collected more feedback/stories from visitors and now hope to create a report that we can publish and share out to gain more awareness on this topic. Below are some images from the exhibition.