Critical Thinking
September 2018

An exploration of a self-driving vehicle console

Originating as a design sprint for an internal initiative, this exploration into the future design of vehicle navigation and passenger control questions what interfaces will look like as the role of driver begins its transition into that of a passenger.

The brief we laid out

  • This is an electric vehicle

  • The vehicle is fully self-driving

  • Seating maintains its traditional layout

The Specifics

  • The screen dimensions are 1024 x 730

  • Most hardware buttons must be replaced

  • Do not address companion devices

This screen will sit in the traditional dash-mounted position, with the expectation that the “driver” will sit to its left (In left-hand driving countries) and the passenger will sit to its right.

However, because this is a “fully self driving” vehicle, we can craft an experience in which the driver need not be aware of vehicle health and operational particulars at all times.

Instead, we will create a model that is contextually aware of the status of both vehicle and passengers alike, and present only the information necessary in each of those contexts.

The Framework

Despite the fact that this vehicle is fully self-driving, the driver, or individual overseeing its movement might still require access to specific controls and information related to its safety, functionality, and current operational status.

Therefore, all operational controls such as speed, lights, wipers, and defrost are kept on what is traditionally the driver’s side, alongside climate adjustment.

Many of the primary and secondary controls require toggling, multiple selections, or increasing and decreasing of scale, so when selected, those options expand the panel to allow for the subsequent interaction.

This can be a tabbed or slider structure, with multi-selection being accomplished through tap and drag or multiple taps.

Finally, the large area at the center of the experience is kept for the two pieces of information that driver and passengers might be most interested in while the vehicle is in motion:

  1. Trip status and navigation

  2. Audio and visual entertainment

Each of these experiences can be viewed with the core controls visible, however, because this car is self-driving, these experiences allow for a completely focused state where those additional controls are not present.

Vehicle entry and charting a course

When first entering the vehicle, we assume that the occupants would like to be taken to a particular destination.

The screen will default to the navigational view and provide information about the current health and range of the battery, including the expected drive time until depletion, in this case two hours and thirty minutes.

If the need is simply to re-park the vehicle, a single tap will bring back the core controls.

Once a destination is entered, the vehicle plans a route that contains any necessary charging stops and begins step-by-step route navigation.

Remember, this information is unnecessary to operate the vehicle, but will provide the occupants with important locational information throughout their journey.

A tap takes the user to the core experience, with the navigation present at its center.

Interacting with the core controls

This is the primary view core controls visible and navigation present as the central information.

On the left

  • Vehicle speed

  • Current movement status

  • Headlights

  • Wipers

  • Rear defrost

  • Front defrost

  • Fan speed

  • Seat warmer and vent direction

  • Temperature

On the right

  • Current time

  • Weather

  • Overall vehicle controls

  • Phone and calling

  • Settings

  • Entertainment volume

  • Fan speed

  • Seat warmer and vent direction

  • Temperature

Tapping on the driver’s side temperature control allows adjustment through a drag gesture.

The controls on each side are independent and can be adjusted simultaneously.

Revealing Navigational Turn-by-turn Directions

The default state of the navigational view displays only the next action the vehicle will take, however, the route can be previewed by tapping on that action.

From the resulting list, the route can be viewed, modified, and canceled.

Revealing Entertainment

Entertainment is central to the experience given that the vehicle will drive itself, so a solution was developed that keeps it central to the display.

A swipe up on the navigation reveals whatever media is currently playing, along with the core controls for that media.

Want to watch a movie or show without the additional clutter of vehicle controls? Not a problem, tapping on the screen makes all surrounding elements invisible.

To change the currently playing media, a vertical swipe-up or scroll gesture in the center of the screen will reveal the media selection screen. Options include video, streaming audio, and traditional radio.

This screen would also be what the user would see when swiping the navigational view up in the case that they have not yet chosen a particular piece of content.

A tap on the down arrow or outside the core media controls returns the user to the currently playing content, while a swipe down from the top of the screen again brings the navigation front and center, alongside the core controls.

The Framework in Action

This prototype explores the key interactions of the framework.

Additional Exploration and Future Vision

This exploration barely scratched the surface of this system and all potential use cases.

In addition to further testing and refinement, a number of further explorations could follow this exercise, such as using multi-touch gestures to make quick adjustments to common actions, or activating voice control through a simple trigger phrase.

As an agency, we love looking into the future of the products and services the we engage with daily, and question how to make their experience more enjoyable and impactful.

To explore the design of your product with us, please reach out, we'd love to hear from you!

Ready to work
with us?

Stay informed

Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates, thoughts, and ideas from Rainfall.
Seattle & The world

© 2022 Rainfall | Privacy Policy

Get in touch