Here is my part 2 for my dissertation proposal. I am finding the dissertation related things some of the most interesting things that I am doing at the moment, and am currently speaking with a few designers at Jaguar and Volvo in regards to my topic which is rather exciting. Though with only a week and a half left until the Easter break, I am rather glad that we will get a bit of time off soon despite the work load slowly winding down.
The future of computers and interactions in Automobiles
Computers are playing an ever increasing role in the world. One of the main areas they are being used in, and have been used in for many years is in the automotive industry. Starting out in the 1970’s, their main function was related to ignition timing (Laurens, 2009). Ever since that point they have seen exponential growth in their use, with their function addressing and overlooking almost every aspect of a vehicle.
Today, computers located in cars are responsible for keeping the occupants safe and entertained, it ensures the engine is running efficiently and it keeps the car on the road. But what role does the computer have in the future of motoring, and how will we, as humans operating cars, end up interacting with them?
One direction the automotive world may head in, is the truly autonomous vehicle. Driverless cars, filling the roads letting the user carry out other tasks. This has been a dream for many for decades, and is only just becoming reality thanks to computers. The DARPA Grand Challenge (approximately 135 miles over desert), subsequently followed by the DARPA Urban Challenge (roughly 60 miles in a closed suburban environment with all the usual perils of town driving) has pioneered part of this dream with it’s quest for driverless cars, albeit with the United States military specifically in mind (DARPA 2004).
Certain aspects of driverless cars are already in operation today in many forms. Some manufacturers have developed adaptive cruise control systems where the speed of the vehicle is not fully based on driver input but instead, on the traffic surrounding it. Speeding up and slowing down as needs be in the ebb and flow of modern driving. Other cars have a system which keeps the vehicle in between the lines on the road, preventing lane drifting and potentially serious accidents by moving into another lane with a car in the drivers blind spot. One of the more useful automatic features some new cars have (specifically Volvos), is pedestrian safety technology, which detects if a pedestrian steps out in front of the driver and if no input is detected to avoid a collision, it applies the brakes automatically (Volvo Cars 2011).
What if the direction taken is completely different? What if cars do not become driverless and humans remain fully in control of vehicles? This is a possibility, where people fight against the increasing amount of technology and do not want a piece of silicone deciding where and what the car goes and does. Social factors such as this will play a massive part in the future of the world and not just the automation of cars. Forcing people to accept new technology in something as potentially lethal as driving could go either way. Granted, it has been achieved many times in the past, though in a less deadly form, with technology such DVD’s, Blu-Rays, and even ATM’s.
The direction in which the technology is most likely to take is somewhere between complete automation and having the driver in control. This would give the driver an option of whether or not they are in complete control one day, enjoying the thrill of driving, or the next day, letting the car do the driving whilst the driver catches up on some work.
If the interactions in vehicles is looked at from a different view point future cars could lead to somewhat of an uprising in many different disciplines. In the late 1990’s, the head of Ford’s design department, J Mays, enrolled the help of renowned product designer, Marc Newson and created the Ford 021C (Argyriades, 2009). A car that was designed more from a product design point of view rather than an automotive design one. It was applauded form the product designers as it was thought to increase the usability and functionality of certain amounts of the cars features. From an automotive design point of view it was, in short, slated. Many thought it looked far too much like a toy car, that was far too simple and didn’t adhere to the unwritten ‘rules’ that were set out in the field.
Trying to take into consideration the past and present forays of interactions and computers in cars, where is the future of this field headed? Will it be awash with self driving vehicles or will it be a technical tour de force with computers allowing drivers to achieve things they only dreamed would be reality in the past? In essence there are only a few directions technology could lead the design and innovation, but the outcome could be massively different to what we experience now, in our cars that have not really changed much technically in the last century.
- Explore the future of interactions in the automotive sector by looking at the possible directions this area may head into.
- The Social aspects of new technologies and implications they may have
- Interactions are often a key part of product design so looking at this would help with my design practice to some extent
- To uncover of direction car manufacturers are taking in terms of technology being included within their vehicles
- To look at current interactions to show what needs to be improved, in detail which would be useful for the wider audience to try and take note and compensate for such inadequacies.
- Review the relevant secondary sources of information and provide a comprehensive analysis of the sources
- A report of opinions from people in the automotive industry providing they are able to disclose such information relevant to the topic. Initially these opinions would be gathered using email but later on in the research process, a phone conversation would be more appropriate to get a deeper understanding of the subject.
- Discuss whether or not the current interfaces in cars are adequate in what their function is, and if they are in fact distracting the driver
- Collate opinions from people about current interactions in vehicles and what they think the next steps should be and additionally what they would like to see to make their driving lives better
Computer, car, future, interaction, interface
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