It may seem like there’s a lot of excitement around driverless cars of late, but a recent study has claimed 88% of Americans wouldn't want to ride in one. That comes down to a lack of trust in automation, according to Peter Skillman, chief of design at HERE formerly Ovi/Nokia Maps.
Speaking at Gigaom’s aptly named Roadmap conference last week, Skillman said the key to autonomous driving is “not to forget about the driver,” and to remember that passengers want a sense of control, as opposed to being utterly passive backseat drivers.
Trust will help people understand that the car is making the right choices and why those choices are being made.“Knowing where you are and what’s around you is key to trust,” said Skillman, perhaps a little unsurprisingly, considering he works for a mapping company.
Another key factor to trust, he said, was knowing what to expect. If what happens matches expectations, levels of trust increase. This is especially true in cases where the car is forced to take a preventative action, such as swerving or sudden braking.
“It’s important that you see the intent of the car to change lanes, so if your car takes evasive action you know why it happens,” Skillman said.
By designing in visual cues that explain what is going on, in a visual way, passengers will feel less uncomfortable, said Skillman. Of course, this needs to happen in near real time, so a heads-up display showing construction, pedestrians, or breakdowns on the route is important.
Cars are, on the whole, an emotional topic. Many people love driving, and for some, it even helps to define them. Germans say, for example, according to Skillman, “driving the autobahn makes them feel more German.” So, presumably, sitting back and taking a computer-generated route could create some form of deep-seated identity crisis.
To avoid angsty Germans, and other potential driverless car problems, Skillman said it was important to make the passenger “still feel like a driver,” by making the car “alive with data,” almost like a fighter jet.
Autonomous vehicles also shouldn’t treat all passengers the same, posited Skillman, noting that people all had their personal preferences, in terms of driving speed, or route selection. Being able to take these preferences into consideration would “humanize driving,” he claimed, and make people more willing to try out the autonomous experience.
What principles matter most in designing the cars of the future? Making the functionality “essential, alive, and pure,” says Skillman.
Whether you feel comfortable being driven around by your car or not, it still remains a bit of a moot point, as development of autonomous vehicles is still in its infancy. Indeed, it will probably not be until 2025 that we’re taking a nap during our commute.