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Automotive User Experience Design

Recent developments in vehicle autonomy are shifting the driving experience paradigm. What previously was a secondary task or activity is now growing into a primary concern for designers. Even though, researchers across disciplines agree on actively involving people in the design of real life experiences in their everyday context, the industry is more comfortable with traditional methods and tools. We aim to introduce a remote participatory design system to increase active participation of users in the automotive UX design process. In this study, for the implementation of our system, we conducted individual co-design workshops with UX designers. Firstly we identified their explicit, observable, tacit and latent needs; then we analyzed them under three main themes and finally translated them into UX design goals. Furthermore we propose a pragmatic interpretation of our findings to inform previous theory in automotive user experience design.


Autonomous driving is transforming the driving experience in the 21st century vehicle. Designing for the new ‘driving’ experience is still at its fuzzy front end and the most insightful way to design for real life experiences is to actively involve the users in the design process in real life situations and context. Participation through Co-creation and Co-design has rapidly gained the attention of researchers in Human Computer Interaction who need to gain rich insights on the explicit, observable, tacit and latent needs of the participants [36] and share control, share expertise and get inspired to change [42]. The need for more active participation is also recognized across disciplines, with psychology having a considerable amount of studies where the attention is on the co-creation of people’s own unique experience with a company [28] and the ‘continuum of consuming experiences’, where the role of the firm changes in each stage of the continuum, from traditional approaches to holistic and immersive approaches and finally co-creation approaches [2, 19]. Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) grew out of computer science and psychology. The academic aspect of both of which are more comfortable with the laboratory than the outside world, and directed more toward functional accounts of computers and human activity than toward experience[15]. Early writings on usability have expressed the notion that usability measurements such as productivity or learnability are not of primary importance. The primary concern is the person’s experience at the moment experienced [44]. A few studies have previously investigated the influence of automotive industry context in a systematic way using qualitative methods in real time driving situations[17,8,4]. Some of them even introduced early open innovation and co-creation paradigms[3]. However, domain specific deficiencies [40] add up to the attractiveness of traditional methods in automotive HCI and HMI. Previous attempts to mitigate these limitations lead to new methods and tools, such as ‘trip experience sampling’ (TES). Meschtscherjakov et al. [22]. Meschtescherjakov et al. [22], argues that participants should have the possibility to express their feelings immediately after an event to mitigate retrospective bias. Much of the available literature in experience design deals with the experience when it happens and suggest that people are not able to report what happened if the event is not memorable [12]. One could argue that immediateness and situatedness [8] are limitations for capturing the experience when it happens with no exception to domains such as the automotive industry. Other researchers [33] disagree that UX is a momentary emotion and as a result it can be evaluated with psycho-physiological measurements. They further support that, it is the long term user experience that matters and not a momentary emotion that could as well be meaningless to the user. This is further explained by eudemonic UX experiences, which compared to hedonic experiences, is about striving towards and accomplishing personal goals through technology use [20].This use of technology can support people’s personal values, such as keeping up with fitness through technology.[12] For example, going to the gym every morning may not be enjoyable, but meaningful in the long run, which explains the difference between Eudaimonic and Hedonic. Yet, Muller et al. [25] claims that hedonic and eudaimonic user experience often seems to occur at the same time.

In this study, we involve UX designers in the co-creation of a supportive system, to gain rich insights on their explicit, observable, tacit and latent needs. Consequently, our objectives in this study are to identify the needs of designers and translate them into design goals to further develop our supportive system and inform theory.

In the current study developing a remote UX design system to involve people in an iterative automotive design process and allow higher levels of active participation in the early stages of the design process, is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Our contribution lies in how to support UX researchers and designers needs when involving users in the UX design process of autonomous vehicles.

We are using individual participatory design workshops as a method, and prototyping techniques to co-ideate and co-design in the “fuzzy front end” of our system and gain rich insights on the needs of the participants.

In this study we aim to increase effective design and participation as a means for matching user needs with the affordances of our remote UX system. As a result we propose a pragmatic interpretation of our findings to inform theory. Moreover, we define UX goals based on our findings form our participatory design to concretize the intended experience of our proposed system and offer a direction for future work.


To identify the UX designer’s requirements for the proposed remote participatory design system, that are defined as ‘goals’ by Kaasinen et al. [16], we analyzed previous work across three research areas: User experience design; Computer mediated communication; Automotive user interaction. Theory-driven data coding and analysis was later triangulated by our participatory design workshops.

User experience design

Most user experience designers follow different processes when designing for experiences. There are three current influences on experience design worth highlighting. Design Thinking, Service Design, and Lean start-up. Design thinking’s main idea is to enable non designers use designers’ methods to inspire original thinking. Service design is about creating ecosystems connected with people to enable the co-creation of value. The lean start-up applies to the philosophies of just-in-time and just enough to the business start-up process. The idea is to either fail fast, that is kill the concept that isn’t working as quickly as possible. It is about providing the ‘minimal viable product’ to users so we can test and learn [30]. Therefore such a product or system should support ‘Discovery’ circle[30] at the early stages of the design process by assisting the designer through the understanding of the challenge; the preparation of the research; and the gathering of research inspiration; In addition, is also required to support the design process by assisting the storytelling; the search for meaning; and the framing of opportunities at the ‘Interpretation’ circle. Consistent with the literature [38], the designer needs to be assisted in adapting  the interaction to the situational needs and in defining the right timing for communication with the user. According to previous research in User experience [13] the designer needs to be assisted in defining the user’s internal state; and in identifying the environment and the context when the interaction occurs. As previously mentioned the process of understanding the user ought’s to happen immediately after the interaction, when the situation occurs [8].

Computer mediated communication

Co-design requires one or multiple forms of communication. Given the limitation of remoteness we need to emphasize the fact that different media are better equipped to disseminate information called ‘conveyance’ and others are better at engendering mutual understanding, which is called ‘convergence’ [31]. What is most important though in developing a remote communication system is that the context has been found to influence the medium’s perception and effectiveness [39]. When the context is social it is worth highlighting that the so called ‘social appraisals’ are more likely to play an important role when others are present than absent [10]. For instance, a person may perceive a communication technology as inappropriate because his or her friends or family are present and got intimidated by a communication event. Another guideline for designing relevant systems deriving from previous research [14, 19] on collaborative outcomes suggests that when communication is predictable, trust is advanced; and virtual teams can perform effectively. As a result any communication interaction on our system is required to be predictable to perform effectively; and to foster a trust relationship between the designer and the user.

Performing the same tasks remotely requires supporting the identification of cues such as frustration, confusion, or unexpected usage, which show a hidden or latent need, to help designers manage the typical Face-threatening acts (FTA) including, acts of criticizing, disagreeing, interrupting, imposing, asking a favor, requesting information or goods, embarrassing and so forth. [24]. Besides etiquette in communication makes social interactions more pleasant, and polite [23]. Studies in social presence identify that to communicate effectively the level of personal involvement and attention that is required for the communication task should be matched with the social presence of the medium[39]. At the same time avoiding the disruption to situations of co-presence [6] is found to be important.  For example when teleconferencing, employees are more aware of others’ status and reactions, thereby being more cautious of their self-image and behaviors[27].

Automotive user interaction

Some important insights for the designers needs in the automotive domain are already highlighted by previous research [21]. Supporting the holistic understanding of the automotive context seems to be identical with other domains. For example identifying the uniqueness of the individual’s experience by eliciting the salient situational circumstances [15] and support in capturing the integration of the interaction in real life environment [14] is as important for the system in automotive domain as in other domains.  Nonetheless, important limitations for designers, as highlighted in automotive specific research[22], include  distortion of the experience by the physical presence of the researcher in the car; avoidance of the motion sickness effect of the researcher taking notes inside the car;  intrusiveness in terms of privacy; as well as minimization of  effort of traditional contextual methods. Further, we cannot neglect the fact that the communication interaction of a remote system is dual, involving a designer and a driver/passenger in the overall experience. Thus, the system should support in the avoidance of cognitive effort, safety, and privacy of the driver/passenger while the interaction takes place.


The nature of the study lies in the intersection of three research areas: user experience design; computer mediated communication; automotive user interaction. Participatory design limitations including recruitment limitations, and time and location sensitivity, dictated that we start our iterative cycle based on theory[16] derived from previous work. A top-down approach which initially capitalizes on the available knowledge from previous research was later triangulated with our participatory design sessions wherein we actively involve participants to co-ideate and co-design.

In Co-design, a form of empathic design, the participants are active design partners. Researchers who introduced design for experiences[1] were also the ones who inspired the co-design movement. Make Tools and generative techniques[2,29,30,31,38] are used to access people’s feelings, dreams, and imaginations and delve deeper into the explicit, observable, tacit and latent needs of the participants.

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