UCD Charette

In this Charette, we re-imagined the dashboard for a car to cater to a specific user. Among our design team, our user was a family pet (dog or cat) who enjoyed riding in the front seat beside the driver.

We began this process with establishing who exactly the user might end up to be. Would this “pet” be a small dog, a restless cat, or a large, elderly dog? Our brainstorming began by collecting information about how each of these users would interact, purposefully or inadvertently, with a car’s dashboard.

Photo credit: University of Washington HCDE

The dashboard of a car is meant more for the use of the driver, with the passenger to assist, which we kept in mind. However, when the passenger is unable to assist, or may do something on the dashboard by accident, we have to ensure that the driver still maintains its usability.

In our brainstorming, we drew out an idea of a completely digital dashboard, much like Tesla’s, with an extra layer of glass and lower touch-sensitivity to be able to accurately distinguish a human touch from that of a pet’s paw or tail. The dashboard, including physical characteristics like climate-control vents and airbags, would also be reformed to be completely separately controlled from that of the driver. In other words, the pet would be able to ride in comfort, without the driver needing to change the air direction or temperature based on the total temperature of the car.

We did this because, however many people do own pets, many of those pets really do enjoy being near their owners as much as possible, and if that needed to be inside a car (presumably in the passenger seat), while the human is busy controlling and navigating the car, the pet should be as comfortable as possible so as not to distract the driver.

We asked questions about how practical this would be, should the pet instead be another human. Would the dashboard’s adaptations for the animal user interfere with the experience of the human user? There may be a materials and cost restraint to our solution as well, so we asked ourselves how easily we could interface this with any car, modern or not, and even that solution may still be tricky.

Photo credit: University of Washington HCDE

The most enjoyable part of this project was finalizing a timeline for the user’s interaction with our idea. During this, we hypothesized a story of the start-to-finish interaction of a pet and its vehicle’s dashboard, from the pet’s tail knocking on buttons, to the human driver needing to find a certain control, to the animal calming in its seat so the driver could better find and use the controls they need.

In the future, we could apply this technique to reinventing other areas of the car, such as accessible trunk features or clearing room in the backseat to carry more passengers, human or not. Projects that would lend themselves to this approach would fall along the lines of an existing tool that could be optimized for a certain potential user, however unlikely that user’s interaction with the tool might be. Something that may not be appropriate for this approach would be completely reinventing a tool from scratch, or coming up with something new. When inventing something that hasn’t been made before, every potential user can’t immediately be known, or the tool (in its prototype form) can’t immediately accommodate every single user while still maintaining its function. That’s where more thought and innovation is needed, but not until a base product is formed first.

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