What happens when you ask artists to design self-driving cars? A book by design studio Ustwo explores the the humanistic and design aspects of the emerging field of driverless vehicles technology.
The team at Ustwo spent months researching, speaking to people all around the world; from an 85-year-old great-grandmother in Mexico City to a seven-year-old schoolgirl in London, a PhD student in Singapore to a car designer in Delhi and a taxi driver in London, so that they can understand what people's mobility needs are and how autonomous vehicles can support them. They compiled it all in an e-book, Humanising Autonomy: Where Are We Going?, about the new and unique design challenges in the field of driverless technology. “It's about creating the right experience for everyone. It's about people and about questions,” says Tim Smith, one of the co-authors of the book. Ustwo is a design studio with offices in London, Malmö, Sydney and New York.
The book comes at an important time in the history of the automotive industry as it faces a "revolution in mobility" thanks to the magic of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs). Ustwo wants to use its user-centred design approach to add to the advances in technology. “We are talking about the human perspective, while the rest of the industry focuses on a technical arms race. This book is intended to start that conversation around our needs as people from the technology, so that we can design appropriately for it, together,” says Harsha Vardhan, co-author.
As part of the book, Harsha addresses an open letter to Nitin Gadkari, the Transport Minister of Government of India. Read it on YourStory here.
As part of the book, the authors asked 20 of their favourite artists and designers to create a piece of work that demonstrates their hopes for AVs. These weird and wonderful creations feature throughout this book as a way to open our imaginations to what these vehicles might be like. The industry is ripe for change and designers should not be held back by norms informed by outdated legacy technologies such as the internal combustion engine and the controls used to manually drive the car. With AVs, there’s a tantalising opportunity to start anew.
“We can finally scrap legacy inefficiencies, skeuomorphic over-dependencies and redundant features. Looking beyond this, our AV concept – the Roo – is built on the idea that there’s more to people’s mobility needs than simply the vehicle and its technology,” add Harsha and Tim.
These designs demonstrate just how varied our imaginations are when it comes to what we want from the vehicles, when they become more about the experience than the car itself. Some people might want to sleep in them, others might want to work, while the more imaginative may want to do yoga or even have sex. Other concepts teach us that perhaps these vehicles could shift to venues on wheels, such as a hotel, rather than a mode of transport. The artists imagined these vehicles as social spaces, where they can interact with other people and enjoy their company, rather than the pod-like single passenger vehicles we see in dystopian visions of the future.
While these designs might not translate to features of autonomous cars, check out some of the quirky designs below: