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Hyundai Are We There Yet? Exploring the (Near) Future of Driving

From fantastic to pragmatic, visions for autonomous vehicles (AVs) have existed for decades. And, while the driverless car is closer than ever, it’s not here yet. The technology is maturing rapidly; automakers are promising first-generation AVs by 2020—and studies suggest mainstream availability may occur by 2030. Given what’s at stake—over 30,000 automobile deaths per year, increasing density, debilitating traffic, lost productivity, an aging population and much more—this new paradigm for human mobility can’t arrive soon enough.

And yet, the gap between now and then is an eternity in technology years. Over the next decade, we anticipate the continued emergence of semiautonomous vehicles (SAVs)—which will be characterized by increasingly sophisticated capabilities and the persistence of manual controls (e.g. steering wheel, brake pedal, etc). Unlike AVs, these cars will require engaged human drivers to monitor the system and assume control under conditions when the car can’t drive itself.

Ideally, SAVs promise to preserve aspects of driving as we know it, liberate us from the tedium of traffic and commuting, and deliver gains in safety and efficiency. On the other hand, increasing reliance on automation will likely make us worse drivers, exacerbating the very problems the technology seeks to remedy and creating a range a new, complex design problems.

We partnered with Hyundai to explore these questions, and to envision potential solutions in the context of a near-term, semiautonomous vehicle.

“We have a human need to understand our environment and trust the systems we depend on—particularly in an automobile where control has critical consequences. And while autonomous vehicles will redefine what it means to be a driver, they won’t change what it means to be human. With its human-centered design expertise and deep understanding of interaction best practices, Artefact created a framework that can help us reach the promise of the autonomous mobility, while respecting the need for control and agency we all share.”

Mark Dipko, Director of Corporate Planning and Strategy, Hyundai Motor America

“Before the cars of the future can become our pilots, they need to prove themselves as our co-pilots. According to Artefact, that's why the next few years are going to be huge for the automotive industry, as they slowly test and perfect the design principles that will define a future of cars where human drivers are optional.”

John Brownlee, Co.Design, October 27, 2015

Design Principles

Engaging Co-Pilot

To build trust and manage transitions in control, the vehicle must establish a relationship with the driver over time, by delivering the right amount of engagement at the right time (and not all the time). The vehicle should implicitly confirm that it “knows” the driver, seek input when necessary and explicitly confirm intended outcomes, manage expectations and proactively optimize the driving experience.

Transparent Systems

To establish user understanding of the system and its capabilities, the interface must communicate clearly and transparently—by revealing what the car sees, what the system is currently doing, what it intends to do in response to environmental conditions, and why. The interface should also reflect what the car can’t do, by forecasting situations where the car cannot operate autonomously and providing adequate time for response.

Adaptive Interfaces

To address the complexity of an interface that can accommodate both manual and autonomous driving, the system should display only what is needed for each mode—using purposeful hierarchy and progressive disclosure optimized across the various displays: meter, HUD, center stack and steering wheel. Transitions between modes should be seamless and immediate.

New Affordances

To facilitate safe and intentional transitions between manual and autonomous mode, the system must include new physical and digital affordances to enable these interactions. The steering wheel is the primary transition point—incorporating natural gestures, inputs and display surfaces at the nexus of control.