UX Perspective of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes Benz Sunny Valley Research and Development Team is telling the UX design and unmanned ground vehicle driving technology with some questions of Steve.
Vera is Senior Manager of Adv. UX Design and Paolo is the vice president of Silicon Valley in Mercedes-Benz.

Photo from Left side To Right side: Viviane Eide, Paolo Malabuyo and Vera Schmidt

How does Mercedes view autonomous driving and how it’ll change the automotive user experience?

PAOLO: We expect that it will be possible for the first highly automated driving systems to be implemented in just a few years in certain road and weather conditions. We already have features like Distronic Plus with Steer Control and Stop & Go Pilot in our S-, E-, and C-Class that show what can be done safely and reliably today. In August 2013, 125 years after Bertha Benz took the first road trip, our colleagues in R&D took a drive on the same route and we became the first manufacturer to use a near-series sensor system to drive 100 km in rural and urban traffic conditions in an S-Class driving autonomously. But it will still take a few decades before fully automated driving on absolutely any route is possible. And it’s not just the design or engineering challenges that need to be addressed as the legal issues will also have to be dealt with. It’s obvious that there’s more happening in the car-human relationship over the next ten years than has happened over the last 50-60 years. It’s a really exciting time to be doing what we do, and a lot of these changes are driven by the work we’re doing here in the digital space. And when I say “digital,” it’s not just screens, although they are the most obvious thing. Everything else is affected too. Touch, voice, gesture, augmented reality, the Internet of Things, etc. will have a great impact in our automobile user experience.

VERA: It’s not only the interaction which is interesting in this vision, but also that suddenly the meaning of the car itself starts to change. At first you just interacted with the inside of the car, but now, for example, you could start interacting with the outside environment itself once you have a Heads-Up Display and gesture control. You can bring outside information inside of the car and interact with it in a new way. It’s fascinating.

PAOLO: We also want to tap into a little bit more of the joy of the driving experience. Driving any car from point A to point B may be done rather well with almost any vehicle, but your heart beats a little faster when you are driving one of our cars. There’s something in that. Why shouldn’t you have that same joy when you are changing the clock? A lot of us are captivated by the changes that you can’t predict. Before we all had cellphones with usable address books, how many phone numbers could you remember? A lot, right? We all could rattle off and, in fact, pride ourselves on remembering dozens. Now? Many of us can’t remember our own phone numbers. Bringing that back into our space, navigation has traditionally been “take me from here to there,” but when the car drives itself and knows the roads better than you do, navigation changes dramatically. I’m not sure you’ll need [navigation] anymore. Just like calling someone, you’ll just need to know I want to go THERE and having a larger map won’t be useful anymore.

VERA: You’ll need a different visualization or layer of the world.

PAOLO: Exactly. And you don’t have to worry about driver distraction. In fact, driving becomes the distraction.

There are a certain number of customers who have a fear of flying due to a release of control. How do you see that affecting autonomous driving?

VIVIANE: We did some research on that recently, and the challenge is that a lot of our customers are from a generation when technology was unreliable. They definitely have some fear and [subsequent lack of trust] in technology. Many of them believe they are better than the machine. When we speak with them about automated driving, they want to confirm that they are ultimately in control and can override the machine.

PAOLO: So it clearly is not completely solved yet and an area that we’re working very hard on, but we can say that designing to gain trust is an amazingly interesting design challenge—far different from the technical problems.

VIVIANE: And we like to talk about “calibrated trust” since there’s certainly also over-trust in technology. If you look at the timeline of where automated driving is going, we are still far away from the machine taking over completely. We will still have situations where the driver has to take over. Even if you are emerged in a secondary task like watching a movie or playing a game, you still have to make sure the vehicle can get you back to the driving task. They did a study at Virginia Tech where they were putting people into self-driving vehicles and the younger participants—the Millennial Generation—were climbing into the backseat after a half an hour. They completely trusted the machine. So you can totally see that if you don’t over-communicate to the driver that you cannot completely relax—which is also challenging—you’ll create that over-trust rather than calibrated trust.

UX Source: Steve Tengler

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