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Automotive Experience Design

Automotive Experience Design

What makes the experience of driving a car enjoyable versus just part of a routine?

How useful and convenient can a car be?

What makes driving a car unique?

Questions like these have been used amongst designers and engineers when trying to solve mobility problems, specifically when it involves a car.

People have always enjoyed getting in a car and going for a ride. We love going on road trips and seeing new places and having the freedom to go where we want, when we want.

Cars not only provide unique individual mobility but are also the second most private spaces after our homes. Driving allows us to head to far and remote places, no matter if its early in the morning or late at night. These machines provide the ultimate personal freedom in mobility and have been part of our lives for quite some time.

Unfortunately, reality is that current urban driving isn’t fun. Traffic in big cities like London, LA, Beijing, can be pretty awful — we work until the last possible minute and then simultaneously rush to our next destination. The constraints of standard working hours ends up funneling traffic into congested locations, making it impossible for vehicles to flow at regular speeds.

Traffic is only one reason that causes people to put themselves in risky situations while driving — boredom, or running late is another. Unfortunately, a lot of people end up reaching for their phones to send a message, check their email or even share something on social media. People have the necessity to continue their connected lifestyle in the car while driving, which can lead to serious accidents.

In 2014 alone, nearly 431,000 accidents that occurred in the US were caused by distracted drivers — this is a serious problem to solve.

So with thoughts like this in mind…

How can we design better and safer experiences for modern cars and people’s connected lifestyles?

When designing these types of situational and time based experiences, we can start by breaking things down into three core scenarios: before, during and after driving.

We can design a multitude of experiences across the three scenarios that leverage our connected lifestyle and enhance people’s lives in general. For example, today, you can lookup directions to a place and check traffic before getting into your car. While driving, you can stream music and get voice directions over bluetooth, and upon arrival, it’s possible to get walking directions to the final destination or even set a parking timer on your phone or smartwatch.

At Mercedes-Benz last year we launched the Mercedes-Benz Companion app in the US and the Mercedes Me app in Europe. Both of these products were designed to help our customers with the before and after driving tasks. You can search for a destination and send it to your vehicle’s navigation system. You can locate your vehicle, check the gas level and tire pressure, as well as many other details about your car’s status.

Mercedes-Benz Companion iOS app

Mercedes-Benz Companion iOS app

During driving, you can leverage the capabilities of the car’s head unit by pulling data from the phone and by using the car hardware for an overall safer experience. Voice interaction, haptic controllers and the positioning of the head unit allows you to have a much safer interaction while driving when compared to using a phone.

For some people, the in-car systems can be seen as cumbersome when it comes to the interaction, nevertheless these systems are designed with safety-first in mind while providing efficient functions for driver and passengers.

Post-driving experiences can be nicely complemented with wearables, not only to support the mobile app, but also to allow quick access to simple tasks like locate a car or to check gas, battery level or tire pressure from a smartwatch.

Mercedes-Benz Companion Apple Watch App

Mercedes-Benz Companion Apple Watch App

For an optimal user journey we should design systems with the three scenarios in mind (before, during and after driving), leveraging the capabilities of both car and devices. By focusing on device-based experiences before and after driving and utilizing the car’s capabilities during driving, we’ll be able to create a more thoughtful holistic experience.

by Ricardo Aguilar

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Front-End Development Is Design

Crash Course: User Interface Design

Crash Course: User Interface Design