Inclusive Design for Autonomous Vehicle

Accessible Application

Overview

One of the most powerful aspects of driving a car is the feeling of independence and control of being able to go anywhere at any time, to listen to whatever you like, and to have a space that is your own. With autonomous cars, there is the potential for a wider set of people to experience these joys of driving without actually driving.

To approach this challenge, we will build off the well established area of accessible interface design for smartphones. 

 

We are currently working on the design system for control and communication using the accessible features of the mobile phone and we are developing the first version of the design.

Timeline

February 2021 - Ongoing

Tools Used

Figma

Skills

User research/testing/interviews, collaborative designing, storyboarding, wireframing

Collaborators
 
Nik Martelaro and his research team 
Problem
 
How might we encourage our transportation to be more accessible to all?

Designing interfaces for accessible autonomous ride-share experiences

Autonomous vehicles are the future, where more and more methods of transportation including our personal vehicles are autonomous. With this powerful tool of driving, we want to expand these experiences to more people by creating an interface that takes into consideration people living with disabilities. 

Often times, many don't realize that a design is not accessible to all because of the lack of exposure and thus knowledge, therefore, I hope to as a designer on this team, not only learn more about designing for accessibility but to also create more awareness into the importance of creating products for the differences in people. 

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I worked with researchers to conduct interviews with people who had experience with disability in our local community, analyzed this information and built out the preliminary structure for our interface. 

Research
 
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Interviews

Every 2-weeks we have a community meeting where we talk to our users and ask for feedback

Communicating with the research team
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We started gathering information on what was already out there for accessibility features on major phone operating systems such as IOS and Android

Using this information on accessible features, we placed them into various scenarios

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Journey mapping


 

What different users are currently experiencing

We collectively in the design team created journey maps of what accessibility users are currently experiencing in different contexts and with different disabilities based on research to get a wholistic understanding of what users would want to experience. This also helped understand at what points in the travel can this interface intervene and significantly improve an accessible autonomous car experience. 

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While the research team focused on collecting data from external sources and organizing them into textual information, I took this and created visual scenerios to further understand the situation and what users might want or come into problem with during a car ride

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I worked together with the researchers to develop a series of user cases to more fully understand what is necessary as part of our interface and interviewed with others in order to get feedback. The researchers complied our process into a spreadsheet as well as a document guideline for designing the interface.

Prototyping
 

As I continuously created scenarios, I began to translate them into voice flows and use this to guide how I designed the initial interface.

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Initial concepts based on voice flow
 

First time user selection for personal autonomous car screens

For first time users, it's important for the interface to know the user and their preference of communication. For example, for wheelchair users in car share rides, they would need to know this to choose only the cars that can provide this service. If the user is visually impaired, then the interface would need to mainly rely on voice control to communicate with the user. 

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Returning user homepage for personal car

Home page and custom controls for personal car

As I continuously created scenarios, I began to translate them into voice flows and use this to guide how I designed the initial interface.

Transitioning to car-share interface with more user feedback
 
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By talking to more users, our team began to shift for designing a personal autonomous car interface to a car-share service because most interviewees assumed that this was the most common and more widely used. This is because of how car-sharing would be a more affordable option.

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With this shift, there would need to be more questions in the beginning of travel to indicate what type of accessible features one would require, such as the size of the wheelchair. Thus, we later would create a series of necessary onboarding questions. 

Starting the Ride

I changed the color scheme to be more contrasted and emphasized on including step by step notifications the status of the vehicle for people living with sight impairment.

In this onboarding scenario, the user can listen to and visualize where and when the car is approaching. They are empowered to be in control during the entire process. 

A log at the bottom lists the processes and steps so that people living with cognitive impairment can look back to it for reference or anyone that wants to confirm that everything is proceeding accuretly. 

As we interviewed people in our community, we noticed that many wheelchair users that already used cars with ramps, often had to redeploy the ramps due to how finicky they were. With this information, I emphasized the redeploy button to be more convenient to  use.

During the Ride

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In a car share scenario, users wondered if there was some way to indicate the drop-off/pick-up zone was accessible friendly. This was a common problem our users faced, therefore, I explored including options for users to rate the drop-off/pick-up zones as well as have a satellite view of the area live. 

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Knowing how different users rely on either sound or visuals to input and understand information from the interface, I designed the starting navigation page to be as visual as possible at major points in the process, such as having a visual of the car in real-time space and having voice control narrate significant events in the journey.

In our interviews, I found out that users want to know what is happening during the ride, but they also don't want to be overloaded with information too often. So creating a balance of what to include and not in the voice feedback is an important aspect I focused on exploring. 

Important events that should require voice control updates include:

• Traffic, delays in travel time

• Changes in road condition (series of speed bumps, etc.)

• Rerouting 

• Emergencies (low fuel, malfunction, etc.)

Clear and consistent communication of travel 
 
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Anytime during the ride, the user can also use their voice or click to the controls tab top change any of the conditions in the car, such as the seat position and temperature. 

Ending the Ride

At the end of the ride, similarly to during the ride, the user is updated on where they are being dropped off at. This includes a live view of the area to better understand the condition, as well as an update on the outside environment and weather. This I learned would be especially relevant to wheelchair users.

The interface then confirms where the user would like to be picked up and parks itself in case of any mistakes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mitigating mistakes
 

What is often mentioned in our discussions is how to navigate when mistakes happen. Therefore in my interface concepts, I focused on inputting areas for the user to intervene at crucial moments. For example, if the destination arrived is not what the user wants, then they are able to click as well as tell the interface that they want to reroute, stay parked, or even go back to their original location (also accessible during the ride anytime). 

User community
 

I realized as I talked to accessibility users in our community when designing this interface, that each person was very passionate about the topic and had many personal experiences and things they wanted to day. Therefore, I thought that as our interface becomes further developed, it would be valuable to encourage a community base where users can interact with each other, share information, and help each other in autonomous vehicle related problems.

In the images above, the user after completing their ride can choose to rate/vote for the area they were dropped off at. Later on, this user input would be considered for seeing how accessible an area is, the higher the percentage the better. While other already approved areas are marked in blue. 

Refinement
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Consolidating our individual designs as a team
 

Research team's design guide 

The research team created a helpful guideline on design tips, colors, and other important information to keep in mind when designing for accessibility. This guided the design team and myself when combining our designs into one more cohesive prototype to hand over to code later. 

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My design guide for designer team

Full Prototype
 
Interactive Prototype
 
 
Next Steps
 

• Refine the voice flow & user interactions of interface by mapping it out

• Refinement of user interface design to be more succinct 

• Testing with our users of current prototype

• Start developing interface