WHO IS OUR FUTURE DRIVER?
Project support - Moovel
Our Future Driver explores what it means to take the human driver out of the car. If autonomous cars are ubiquitous in 25 years, how will mobility services change our interactions?
According to Deloitte's University Press in The Future of Mobility, the next 25 years are going to be a transformative period for personal mobility. It is predicted that autonomous cars will be on our roads and the sharing economy for transport will become the norm. Our multi-disciplinary team of 4 postgraduate students (Nafeesa Jafferjee, Jieun Lee, Natalia Kristali, Tim Worms) decided to tackle a speculative design brief that addressed the future of mobility. Our research found that companies, engineers, and designers are primarily focused on building the technical requirements necessary to create functioning driverless cars, such as navigation and artificial intelligence (AI) systems, peer-to-peer vehicle communications, and advanced LIDAR sensors. Stepping back from the technology, we wondered: What are the implications of removing the human driver? What is missing from the equation? To explore this, we imagined multiple scenarios centered around an AI driver and filmed them to instigate a societal discussion. By leveraging the power of the future users to shape the demand and need for autonomous vehicles, our aim is to best answer: How do we design the right AI driver service for autonomous cars?
We conducted in-depth interviews with families commuting in London, Uber drivers and employees who worked at bike/car-sharing businesses to get a better understanding of current mobility problems we could solve for the future. The main insights we gained were:
1) A driver plays an important role in the car. They sometimes feel like they are therapists for their passengers and they also clean the car and maintain it after certain rides with messy passengers. This made us wonder what our interactions would be like with a car when riding alone and if cars were shared who would have ownership and take care of it?
2) Sharing a driverless car with strangers will create different social interactions. When traveling the driver is often the one with all the decision-making power. Without a human driver who will control the music/temperature? Will we each have our own AI assistants for the car and will we pay a premium for our preferences?
3) Safety is a huge concern. When we talked to an 8-year-old boy Yael, he said he would be too afraid to go into a self-driving car and couldn't imagine traveling without his parents. His parents and other parents with young kids felt the same. This opened a up a lot of concerns about the safety of autonomous cars, especially for kids. Do we need to set up parental controls for the car? What happens if a car is hacked and how will an AI driver react when something goes wrong?
We realised that travel is messy and things don't always go according to plan. Although driverless cars will reduce accident rates and congestion on the road, how will people react on the few occasions something does go wrong?
At the end of our research, we had more questions than answers. How could we design the best AI driver when there were so many social situations we needed to address? Instead of designing a solution, we decided to create a series of videos to start visualising what these situations could look like to gain awareness and start a conversation among our network of designers.
How will an AI driver interact with you?
This video explores interactions between people and an AI driver. What will it be like when you ride alone? Share a car? Get in an accident. Who has control?
We selected a few scenarios we wanted to highlight, shot videos and exhibited our project at the Work in Progress show at the Royal College or Art. Based on the interactions we highlighted here are some of our recommendations and our first stab at answering: How do we design the right AI driver service for autonomous cars?
Scenario 1 - Riding Alone
Here we explored what it would be like to interact 1:1 with a driverless car. We came to the conclusion that the best experience when riding alone is a personalized AI assistant that can speak to you and also answer questions you have about the journey. Experience is very important - the car has to get your destination right and be able to listen to any requests you have along the way and adjust its route accordingly. We can’t yet tell how much a passenger will actually talk to the AI in the car but we will probably start to see some interesting behavior once autonomous cars are in use.
Scenario 2 - Sharing a car with strangers
As the sharing economy is on the rise, we predicted that there will probably be a shared autonomous car services. Unlike the train or the bus, a car has a fewer number of people in an intimate space. We think without a human driver this could create some tension between passengers if they want their preferences in the car. We recommended in this situation there needs to be some hierarchy of power. Maybe the first person in the car gets their choice of music and temperature or people can pay a premium for their preferences for the ride. Additionally the AI could be a type of mediator that enforces default settings if there is a conflict and report any issues in the car to an authority if something nonconsensual happens between passengers.
Scenario 3 - Getting into an accident
Although it will be rare, there will be a few occasions when an autonomous car will get into an accident. Without the human by the wheel this will be scarier because the AI will be making decisions on your behalf for your safety. One solution we had in this instance was linking the car to a support line that had an actual human that could communicate with you and guide you what needs to happen to stay safe in an accident.
How will an AI driver interact with Kids?
This video explores an interaction with a young kid and an AI driver. How do we factor in age when we create the new future driver?
Scenario 4 - Driverless cars and young kids
Here we explored how an AI voice assistant might interact with a kid. We realised that there needs to be some sort of parental controls for very young kids so that they don’t mistakenly ride alone in an autonomous car without their parents. Parents felt very strongly about this and wanted to make sure that they were always with their younger kids and would not trust a driverless car. Additionally as with other online content parents expressed that they would like to make sure their kids had a good balance of educational content and also being offline from the internet when travelling.
What if your driver follows you everywhere?
We explored the possibility that your AI driver will also be your navigator when you go walking, biking or take public transport. Here the AI makes decisions for you.
Scenario 5 - AI as your personal assistant for all travel
Here we explored an AI that navigated you when you walked, biked, drove or took public transport. It knows all your preferences and in fact knows you better than you know yourself. Would you be comfortable with it making decisions for you? In our video we show an example of your assistant taking you through the scenic route so that you can get more exercise. When we shared this video with others we realised that when we design such assistants we have to create a very fine balance between a AI that asks your permission vs an AI that makes decisions for you.
Through our research and outcomes we realised that with every transformative technology there are side effects. So we decided that designing a solution for a perfect AI driver service would not be a realistic goal for our project. Instead we used design to create a conversation to get people to think about context and social interactions when it came to autonomous cars and not just a technological solutions. At the the exhibition we collected more feedback/stories from visitors that were both positive and negative and it really helped us broaden our views of positive/negative social interactions that could happen in a car and help us come up with better recommendations for an AI driver service.
During the WIP Show 2018, we asked more people's their own stories and opinion from visitors. And we keep collecting more stories on our website.