The UX Fair Series: Station 1 - The self-driving car experience

UXSeptember 23rd, 2016

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This is the second of our four-part UX Fair series, where we look back at the event and share some of the ideas generated around our three areas of exploration.

In the self-driving car experience, guests interacted with a six foot, suspended-on-glass user journey. Touch points and prompts were provided as a means of igniting thoughts around morals, ethics, safety, privacy, machine learning, automation, and interior design.

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We brought people through the journey by educating them on three different personas, John the skeptic, Sarah who is disabled, and Manuel our early tech adopter. We provided a historical and future vision into the both highly topical and autonomous car industry.

Some of the most interesting conversations of the night were witnessed here. Creative and technical thinkers debated about utilizing technologies, such as voice recognition for the blind, fingerprint and retina scan, and facial recognition as ways of granting entry to vehicles.

Safety and privacy concerns were heavily examined. Guests collaborated and ideated around machine learning and behavioral adaptation. The words “Interface would know the new directions, has access to texts, user confirms” were scribbled on a haphazardly placed yellow Post-It. They responded to questions like “How could we address spontaneity?” with thoughtful and innovative recommendations, including device connection.

Vehicle, passenger, and pedestrian communication immediately emerged as a theme, making it clear that this functionality will be crucial. We inspired the audience to contribute features that would facilitate communication visually and audibly. A constant pulse on safety will require product designers to stream information in a non-disruptive or alarming way.

The most controversial area of discussion was morals and ethics. When prompted to think about whether we trust machines to make split-second decisions about human life, guests were astonished when thought starters were presented with these new technological dilemmas. We addressed the recently revived trolley problem, first introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967.

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In the trolley problem, people face the dilemma of instigating an action that will cause somebody’s death, but by doing so will save a greater number of lives.

If cars can drive themselves, will people own cars or will they share? What will cars do when you’re not using them? Where will they park, or will they park at all? All of these conundrums were discussed. The idea of sharing and not owning sparked one woman to assert:

I would only let someone I know use my car, but I wouldn’t share it with strangers. I need a car that is tailored to me, similar to our disabled persona, Sarah, who is blind.

This is exactly where we wanted our guests minds to navigate. We even attempted to define a new verb for driving like jaunting, conducting, or “commanding.”