Giving humans control

It’s obvious to consider public services and transport systems are designed around the user, but manufacturing has two hundred years being driven by technology..

Working in the technology sector, it’s typical to find innovations appearing which solve technical problems. Good ideas float to the top, become popular and then financial success follows.

I was recently conducting sit-down interviews with guests from across a variety of industries which somehow all connect to transport, a sprinkling of technical consultants, a senior academic and an engineer from an international infrastructure engineering company.

Their broad diaspora of industries and expertise led me to believe the conversations and comments they’d bring to light would be diverse and unrelated, suitably nibbling at the carrot that had led them to my studio in the first place, the opportunity to talk about why they and their employers were interested in autonomous vehicles.

What I came away with was a real surprise. The message that, despite the headlines – whether it’s roads, cars, academia or mechanical engineering and government – everything is looking in a very different direction for guidance. Instead of a blind pursuit of technology for technology’s sake, everyone was looking at sociology, psychology and even philosophy to better understand people, their needs, aspirations, and future expectations.

Human-centred design can permeate more than just the products we use and take for granted, like toasters and laptops, but actually a well designed world, a ‘system of systems’ means that life gets a little bit easier. Some 25 years ago when I first received my red and blue National Insurance Card (now long lost) I fully anticipated, well ahead of my time, it being a gateway to every government service.

Modifying organisational structure around consumer needs is the only realistic way the automotive industry will weather the changes coming to revenue models and buying habits.

Today, it is. Computerised, connected and enabling access to many things that were otherwise hidden behind a wall of bureaucracy – and that also means when I choose to renew my car insurance, my identity can be easily checked. That lowers the cost of my insurance because they have lower overheads, and speeds up my interaction, freeing my time to watch Netflix.

Major OEMs are now looking to restructure to focus their thinking around consumers, to be responsive to the opinions and behaviours that marketers have been tied to for years. Sociology, sometimes written off as a pseudo-science by more technical engineers, has gained enough support to now influence what products are created, but even how they are conceived and created, and how the professionals responsible work with colleagues.

As we lumber inevitably towards peak car ownership, a more holistic view is inevitably required in order to ensure future success – it’s no longer good enough simply to create great technology, it has to respond to consumer needs. It’s no good deploying an ADAS system which creates experiences which feel jarring or unnatural to drivers.

In our industry, human centred design is increasing its influence, and permeates far further into the human’s relationship with the car than just the cabin – it’s the connectivity, the navigation, even the relationship with other road users and the infrastructure itself.

It’s one of the reasons we are keen to share insights from our speakers, as well as maintain a continuing and open dialogue with ‘interesting folk’ around related sectors, because let’s face it, it’s unlikely a lab-based scientist will have spoken recently to an infrastructure engineer or an end user.


Find great content from across the eco-system on our popular YouTube channel,  AutoSens TV – including sessions from our previous events and dozens of interviews with industry leaders. Conference attendees (including speakers and sponsors) can also access recordings from AutoSens for an exclusive period with a login and access details emailed directly to them shortly after the event.


Why not come along to an AutoSens event in Detroit or Brussels. Early bird prices apply

Responses