Six New Ways We Will Interact with Vehicles in the Future
By Sean Loomis
The automotive industry has finally in the last decade (and more dramatically in the last 5 years) been experiencing a revolution where vehicles are re-imagined and the ways in which we interact with these vehicles is rife with opportunity.
Since 2009, a phone is no longer a device just to talk to others… it’s a gigantic compilation of tools connecting each user to the world around them. A television isn’t just a tv playing broadcasted shows from local networks… they’ve become massive entertainment experiences with cool new interactions. So many of the everyday objects we’ve used for decades have been receiving dramatic overhauls and reexaminations. The empowerment of both Connectivity, Machine Learning, and Advanced Sensor Technologies are enabling new dimensions of interactivity in almost every industry (almost exhaustingly).
So how will we interact with our vehicles in the near and far future? (What’s on the horizon, and which concepts still need some major work?)
Cars Visualizing Data in More & Better Ways…
Large advancements have been made in the ways vehicles present and visualize information to users. For a majority of automotive history, driver-to-vehicle communication was almost exclusively based on auditory or visual cues being communicated by the car itself. The next advancement were warning lights attached to technological triggers inside the car to inform drivers about problems, system availabilities, and warnings (ie. check engine light / abs / turn signal / etc.).
With the advent of touch displays and digital interfaces though, the available space for visualizing relevant data has exploded. Dashboards have gone almost completely digital, with the development of advanced e-cockpits and gigantic infotainment systems. A plethora of Heads up Displays (HUDs) are popping up to present information to the driver without them taking their eyes off the road. Now, displays are being installed almost everywhere where there is space for information to be interacted with. Even windows, with the advent of OLED touch displays, are becoming data visualization points and new opportunities for interactivity for passengers.
As touch displays, holographic tech and augmented surfaces continue to progress, the opportunities for drivers and passengers to consume and interact with meaningful data become more and more important. One of the biggest challenges will be the task of skillful UI & UX Designers to present the information in ways that are not distracting or annoying to passengers.
Cars Equipped with Digital Assistants…
In essence, Digital Assistants are making massive steps forward in acceptance and their integration into a variety of spaces, from personal communication, to households and, as a natural progression, our vehicles as well. While the depth of integration and reliability of these Digital Assistants to act on our behalf is still being developed, such assistants will enable a host of new interactions for vehicles.
One of the largest new interaction possibilities will be our ability to dialogue and speak with our vehicles. Not only will drivers of the future be able to issue commands to Digital Assistants to carry out actions attached to our daily activities, we will also be able to ask questions to our vehicles. Imagine being able to pose analytical questions to your car, such as asking “What the state of the vehicle’s tire pressure is?” or “Are there are any non-critical systems that can be shut off allowing me to drive further on one electrical charge?”
Car manufacturers and brands of the future will be distinguished based on the competence, reliability and strength of the Digital Assistants inside of the vehicles they produce. What will the experience be? What personality will they have? How well can they help me as a driver / passenger? How meaningful is the interaction that I have with them? How these questions are answered will define our acceptance and interactions with said assistants.
Cars that Sense our Physical & Emotional State…
Several automotive manufacturers and suppliers are focussing on technologies which can capture, measure and adapt the environment inside of the vehicle to react to the physical & emotional state of the driver and other passengers. Sensors, cameras and machine learning algorithms are coming together to quickly understand accurately in what state of mind the driver is.
Imagine a car that understands you so well, that it reacts to those stressful road moments, either physically or environmentally. Imagine a vehicle responding to road-rage by playing relaxing music and setting off calming interior lighting. Imagine a car that understands when you are distracted or sleepy, and initiates measures either keep you awake and aware or to keep you as a driver safe.
So many applications, as soon as they are developed enough, would allow vehicles to better understand individuals and drivers and create a different type of relationship between drivers and their cars. Vehicles might become incredible empathetic partner interacting on behalf of our safety and mental well being.
We need self-driving cars that can monitor our attention along with our emotions
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Car that Can Read Our Brains & Movement…
Much of the technologies being developed around new interactions inside of vehicles are rooted in removing barriers between drivers and their vehicle. Almost nothing can come closer or intimately in the sense of interaction than a connection to our thoughts, brainwaves and subtle gestures.
One look at most dashboards & center consoles today, with the enormous number of buttons, knobs and dials, are often anything but intuitive interactions. Rather, they are distracting and confusing barriers often distracting drivers from their main tasks. Rather, could we not imagine cars based on more intuitive gestures to control functions inside the vehicle itself? Why couldn’t a simple raise of the hand increase of the volume of music being played in a car? Instead of moving levers to activate turn signals, why could we not simple point a hand in a direction to indicate our intent? Gesture-based interactions might be an incredibly interesting way to enable more seamless cooperation with our vehicles.
What if cars in the future could sense a thought before we ever speak it out? Often the impressions or thoughts we have are quicker than the physical reactions we have. Imagine that your vehicle could sense in a critical moment, the panic felt by the driver, and understands how to act in an evasive maneuver faster in a direct connection to impulses sent by the brain itself. Nissan is just one of several automotive manufacturers working on a brain-to-vehicle interface & measurement device. Talk about removing barriers!
Car Adjusting to our Modes of Activity…
Long dreamed of, with the gigantic leaps in autonomous driving vehicles and technologies, the idea of the interior of a car adjusting to a different focus other than driving becomes more and more realistic. Although many of the visions of such vehicles are still very conceptual and difficult in their practicability, the enticing opportunities they present are attractive.
Once driving no longer becomes a focus of the automotive experience, passengers are free to spend their time as they wish. Could we not creative flexible technologies that allow for adaptable layouts inside of a vehicle, enabling various modus of operation? Perhaps a social or work modus where are seats rotate to face each other for easier communication / collaboration with other passengers? Perhaps a modus for relaxation where each seat leans into a reclined position and begins a massage cycle? Perhaps a modus where passengers can engage in an augmented gaming overlay which reacts to the movement of the car itself?
Th possibilities are endless, but probably more advances will be made once true autonomous driving is achieved to address other possible interior layouts that adjust to our modes of activity… in the mean time, here are some interesting concept videos from Rinspeed and Nissan:
Car that Communicate Outside the Vehicle…
There are a host of technologies being developed for interactions from vehicles to other vehicles (V2V), or vehicles interacting with the infrastructure around them (V2I). However, perhaps one of the most important areas of interaction yet to be solved will be the interplay between autonomous vehicles and people.
As soon as vehicles that drive themselves become widely prevalent, an anxiety is sure to arise where communities, cities and pedestrians want assurance that these vehicles recognize and acknowledge humans sharing the streets. Cars of the future will need to win the trust of pedestrians by various forms of communication and interaction with these individuals.
It begins at simple instances of interaction, such as a crosswalk, where pedestrians might fear a driverless car on the road and wonder, “Does the car see me? Will it stop for me as I enter the crosswalk?” These interactions can be solved in a variety of ways, through acknowledging light displays around the vehicle, to audio interactions assuring pedestrians that they are seen and acknowledged.
Yet, the situations become more complex when factors are less than ideal:
- Limited visibility due to increment weather conditions
- Multiple pedestrian and autonomous vehicles communicating together
- Night time communication with low visibility
- Emergency vehicle communications
And especially when a car is communicating more than acknowledgement, but rather complex intent.
The way we drive and interact with vehicles haven’t changed that much over the decades. It’s finally time for vehicles to be rethought in the new ways in which we might interact with them, and the technology is finally advancing enough to realize concepts we could only dream of before.
If you’d like to read more about concepts regarding New Ways of Interacting with Vehicles, here are a few more articles with some good thoughts on the topic:
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This is part of an ongoing series we at TEAMS Design are producing to discuss future trends we are researching in the automotive industry.