My name is Matthias, and I am a designer and car enthusiast. I am the Studio Lead of Goodpatch Berlin, where I managed to combine both topics for work – Design and Mobility. I would like to start with the term “design” and differentiate aesthetic-design and human-centered design.
The two cars above are both under the umbrella of Waymo but follow very different approaches. First focusing on human-centered design, I want to point out the term “user experience design.“ Most of the time “user experience design“ (UX) is invisible, and we only recognize it when something doesn’t work. In a car, that means: If you are distracted from driving, or can not find a feature, the UX is in bad condition.
I would expect a more advanced system in a high-end car like the Rolls Royce Cullinan, but why is the infotainment here so unlike the rest of the luxury customer experience?
The origin of this infotainment system is BMW ConnectedDrive from 20 years ago. This was not a bad solution at that time, but note that this was seven years before the first iPhone (2007) was released.
The question is: Why is the UX on smartphone apps so much better than in your current car? The difference is:
Cars are products that are built, but digital services need to grow.
UX Design trends
During the first phase of our design process, I often hear many reasons to skip the user research or usability testing: Tight project deadlines and pressure to keep the deliveries; Not enough time or money - Research budgets are the first the client looks to cut; NDAs and concerns around confidentiality; Anxiety around giving users access to unfinished products; Or the classic, "we already know our users and what they want."
I have been lucky to participate in very different research phases and projects. We've tested upcoming apps for cars and asked real users around the globe about different local needs, acceptance requirements, and behavior. This research is always very interesting. For instance, in researching an app that would alert parents if their child with a drivers license is taking the car, we learned that while many car owners in the US loved it, many Europeans had privacy concerns.
That brings us to a growing trend I've seen:
Designing one-size-fits-all interactions just won’t work in the future. Customers will demand interactions that are personal and immediate.
Another noticeable trend for designers is “generative design“ and artificial intelligence. This will be a game-changer in the next few years. I don't think we will move away from smartphone or laptop screens in the near future, but let’s see how technologies such as AI, voice commands, augmented reality, and virtual reality develop.
To have a look at it in a broader mobility field, here is an example from Berlin. We tested different prototypes and approaches to a scooter companion app with first-time users and heavy users in a very short time. Users were way more engaged with the brand afterwards, and had a much better understanding around some of the issues they discovered.
The connected trend I see here is:
Clear and profound Design systems (incl. Voice and AI interactions)
This means that designers who are specialized in one topic like voice will soon find their specialty become a standard skill set in companies. Another trend I see is UX applied to more than services and products. I imagine that in the near future, every job role within a company will be the target of an experience designer. In other words, designers will also soon find themselves improving workspaces or company culture.
The third movement I see is XR (cross reality). To test larger and more holistic scenarios, we at Goodpatch developed our own XR tool to accelerate our research projects. Here you can see our tool, where we test experiences in and around the car, the HMI, connected devices, and driving scenarios, including eye tracking.
Powerful cross reality prototyping of digital car and V2X experiences.
User tests in VR are so fun and we have had great learnings already. You might think it is tricky to test with older drivers who have never worn VR glasses, but actually, in one of our global UX tests, we found that older testers took the VR experience more seriously than younger testers. We also recently tested HMI interactions in different situations with people in Germany and Japan, and the oldest participant was 86 years old.
Trends in mobility
In the next 10 to 20 years, we will see mobility focus on the personal and public transportation of goods and people, daily commutes, shopping, and holidays. For now, it's not about tech giants and start-ups who could dominate in areas more than the traditional automakers and tier-one suppliers. I believe partnerships are key, and competitors are more satisfied when they can work together on areas of shared interest.
We all know the CASE mantra. It's been shared and discussed quite widely for more than five years now. Let’s have a look at how it applies today and to the future.
“Future mobility is about striving towards environment-friendly, integrated, automated, and personalised travel on demand.”
Connectivity - We see movement from user and smartphone connectivity to technologies such as V2X and V2V. Payment and convenient features like in-trunk-delivery are on the rise.
Autonomy - Companies are trying different approaches here: Start with autonomous vehicles in difficult conditions and learn fast or learn new things step by step. AVs are tested in tricky environments like San Francisco but are also in very predictable in more stable conditions like those you find in Nevada. Some say: Five levels of automation are fine, but actually, it feels like there are 1000 levels. It seems to be harder than expected to get to Level 4 or 5.
Sharing - Research has shown us that sharing services can have a very different local approach. We've learned that users of car-sharing services in Japan use their rental time to take a nap or practice an instrument, but not to actually drive. I accept seamless mobility (from Taxi to Train to Scooter) since it’s available in most major cities. But the infrastructure integration (city vs. periphery) is still a challenge. What's more, the restricted ownership of private vehicles in cities is an ongoing topic that car owners have to face.
Electric - Yes, we see slightly more electric vehicles on the road but hydrogen fuel cell technology still hasn't been ruled out. In general, car sales are expected to slow during and after Covid-19.
I have combined the trends in UX and mobility to show action areas where design will be in high demand.
Digital services and improvements are happening at a higher frequency than car development. The usual software vs. hardware dilemma. When cars finally become “rolling smartphones“ (as promised), how can we speed up development without falling short of security standards? What does car production beyond industry 4.0 look like, with automotive UX updates happening in higher frequency?
Obviously, car manufactures are trying and exploring new sales and business opportunities. Here comes another impulse: when “data“ is the new service offering, what does a “premium service” for OEMs look like? This will require a certain level of trust before users feel comfortable enough to share their data with companies (email, access to contacts, credit card details, etc.). Car brands that have this consumer confidence will be in a better position to collect data like transaction or health information, and will subsequently be better prepared to provide more value. Safety is always the priority for automotive companies, and manufacturers will need to follow this with customer data.
Wrapping up, here are my takeaways:
- I hope for more research and testing
- I assume less differentiation by graphical user interface (GUI)
As a designer, I personally wish for:
- Additional business measurements after profit and shareholder value
- Discussion about daily rates vs. value-driven compensation as an agency
- More willingness for early user feedback
- Profound design systems (incl. voice) to have a personalized, on-demand, and guided experience
- Fast and holistic testing (incl. virtual and extended reality)
Do you agree or disagree? Write me a message.