UI/UX - Enes Olcay
Exterior & Interior Design - Brett LaBar
This is a collaborative project sponsored by General Motors Company. There are industrial designers, user interface designers, graphics designers and fashion designers collaborated for this project. The requirement is to design exterior and interior of level 4 autonomous Buick Velite concept for year 2025. We have been provided a design brief and guidelines by General Motors in the beginning of the project. Frank Saucedo and Thamer Hannona visited Academy of Art University at the first week to talk to us about the expectations and the brand culture.
Experiments show that the users do not interact with the display screens inside the self-driving cars. They keep using their mobile devices.
Design challenge
Create new experiences for the users and make sure they are engaged with the car in different ways.
Thinking about the car interior as an architectural space and designing the transformative interior space for more engaging activities.
HMI components
The concept is the design of the transformative interior space. The seats are turning backwards. To make more room, we did not include a console. That’s why the Infotainment and the Comfort Controls are on the steering wheel user interface. 
For when the car is in the autonomous mode and the front seats are facing backwards, we don’t want the users to reach back to use their car controls so we included the car seat user interface. The screen goes dark when it’s not in use so it reduces distraction.
Instrument cluster is shown on a short and wide screen. Only few critical information is shown because it will be shown at all times.
HMI concept
Velite Asteria gets to know you by using machine learning and predicts your next step.
So we decided to minimize the screens and minimize the amount of time that users spend looking at those screens. That's why we came up with this idea of curated experience. Self-driving car technology is making the decisions for us on the road. So we thought it can also make decisions for us inside the car. Technology knows us better and better each time as we use it. It is not only limited to our cars.  So the experience for the user is curated by the smart car. The only time the user taps a button is when he/she wants to make a change on the flow.
Hank, 34
Lives in Mountain View, CA
Divorced with 1 kid
Operations Manager
At the meetings of most of the time 
Millennial - tech savvy but he also enjoys outdoors
Lost the custody of his daughter Sophia
He can only see her on the weekends
So the time he spends with her is very valuable.
Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

Car seat user interface
Car seat - massage
Going back to the story, Hank goes jogging to the woods in the morning. After the jog, he sits back, relaxes and enjoys the ride. The car is in the autonomous mode and he wants to get a massage using his car seat user interface.
Car seat - games
Hank and Sophia are taking the advantage of the autonomous car and play games together. This is how he activates the game using his car seat user interface.
Steering wheel user interface
Phone - answer and switch to autonomous mode
Today we have answer and decline buttons when we receive a call. In future, there will be a button which makes the car automatically takes the control from the driver and switches to autonomous mode when you answer the call. It will be more efficient for the user.
Smart navigation
His phone, watch, home, car, personal computer, etc. Everything is interconnected. So when he makes a change in his calendar the car is aware of that. When he gets into the car just before 10am, the car predicts that he is going to the school so he asks him to start navigation to the school.
Smart music
The smart car has the face recognition technology so when his daughter is with him, it knows that and offers to play her playlist. It doesn't play explicit songs so the driver doesn't have to watch what it’s playing.
Switching to autonomous mode
To switch from manual mode to autonomous mode, the user needs to pull the pedals behind the steering wheel with his index fingers for 3 seconds. It is because we do not want the user to accidentally switch to autonomous mode. It has to be intentional.
Manual mode vs autonomous mode
The user interface shows the change to the user but it has to be very obvious that the user switched from one mode to another. That’s why there are two states of the steering wheel. There is not just a digital but also a physical indication.
Switching to manual mode
The human taking the control back from the machine requires more caution so that’s why this flow is a little bit more complex than the other one. There are basically 3 main factors: driver seat must be in the upright position to drive, the hands must be on the steering wheel and the foot must be on the gas pedal because the car should not slow down immediately when it switches to the manual mode. The last step is to make sure the driver has a full grip on the steering wheel. 
Smart volume
The most used buttons in the car are probably the volume buttons. People’s reaction when someone speaks to them is to lowering down the volume to hear and speak more easily. Smart volume control adjust the volume when he starts speaking. And he can always deactivate it if he doesn't find it useful.
Alternative route
It is very common even today that navigation systems are making recommendations for us. But it's not only about the time anymore. Battery level is also something we will start paying attention to. The user can make a decision between time or battery. Also, when the user makes a decision it will let the people know who are affected by his decision.
Smart climate
The technology knows you better as you use it. It knows what specific temperature you like in your car, home or workplace. And when there is a significant change in the temperature it asks you if you want to turn on the AC and adjust the inside temperature to your liking.
Car seat - health vitals
The car seats contact our arms while we are driving. The smart car takes the advantage of that. Using its sensors it measures the user’s vitals. If the user wants, he can go into the health app and check his vitals. It also assesses the risk and lets him know if something is going wrong.
Emergency switch to autonomous mode
There are lots of incidents that the driver is having a heart attack and he loses the control and he hits the car. The driver is contacting the smart car seat which has sensors measuring his vitals. If there is a drastic change in the the driver’s vitals such as heartbeat or blood pressure, the car takes the control back from the user, shares the GPS information, parks itself to the nearest safe spot and calls 911.
Instrument cluster - speedometer
It’s an electric vehicle so we need to present relevant information. We tried to minimalize the instrument cluster and show not everything at once. speedometer is a circle that goes bigger as you speed up. It also shows you the speed limit and the color of the circle changes as you are closer to or above the speed limit.
Instrument cluster - warnings
The top part of the infotainment is informing the user when a change occurs. It explains the meaning of the icon and then it lights the icon down below. That way the user does not have to see all the warnings at once.
Internal communication
Imagine you are working on your laptop or reading something when you are in the autonomous mode. Suddenly your car is slowing down, changing direction or going to the left side of the lane. You want to know why the car is making that decision. In the middle part of your instrument cluster, the 3D map is communicating the intentions of the car to the driver which will build the trust between human and the machine.
Autonomous mode
There is an manual/autonomous mode indicator at the bottom. The color code is there to show the difference. The line is showing the path of the car.
Manual mode
In manual mode, the line turns gray. And the manual mode indicator is on. There is a speed limit on the top left for that area. When you go faster than the speed limit, the circle turns red and your speedometer turns red too.
Other vehicles
All other vehicles are shown in the interaction color. They are in wireframe style to keep it consistent. So different brands are not modeled in a different way in the 3D map.
Change direction
The driving line of the car changes and becomes wider to show the area it is going to use when it is changing the lane.
Making room for the bike
The smart car has situational awareness. It’s bike friendly and making a room for the bike. In the 3D map it shows the area and the bike in the wireframe style. This can also apply to the semi-trucks so the user is not scared inside the car.
Yielding to pedestrian
The car is slowing down for a pedestrian and it shows the driver that it is aware of that person. The text communicates the intention. The pedestrian is in the wireframe style to keep the consistency.
Exterior communication
Other brands
These are some examples how other brands’ concept cars are dealing with that problem. Mercedes F015 Concept is projecting a cross walk on the road. The problem with that is it is not visible during the daytime. It might work on a dark surface but if the surface is in the same color with the light, it might be problematic. Nissan IDS Concept is showing a text banner on the hood. The problem is the language. The pedestrian might not be speaking the same language. Smart Vision EQ is showing arrows and text on the front grille. The problem with that is it might not be visible from the pedestrian’s point of view.
Pedestrian's point-of-view
This is what a pedestrian sees before crossing the street. The front grille is difficult to see from that angle. Also it's very low.
Pedestrian safety
Blinker indicates the car is aware of the pedestrian and follows the 360° communication line. We look into the eyes of the driver before we cross. So green arrow signals are exactly where the driver eye level is. The visual communication telling the pedestrian it’s safe to cross.
Not safe to cross
The color of the communication line changes to the red as an indication of caution. Blinker goes bigger and smaller and let the pedestrian know that the car is not going to stop and he should watch out.
Shares information
The car shares critical information to the other vehicles on the road.
Market research
I’ve been to different car dealerships from different brands to see what are the trends and what kind of information I need to design to be displayed in the cars.
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