Over the past decade, the role of technology in cars has steadily expanded beyond the familiar areas of safety and efficiency features, to include entertainment, communication, and information services. The underlying purpose of many of these technologies is to enhance the driving experience, and make vehicles that are ‘fun’ to own. The introduction of Low Carbon Vehicles (LCVs) heralds an additional series of issues such as novel starting/stopping procedures, or communicating the effect that driving style has on the potential mileage range.
To achieve customer acceptance, and improve the ‘user experience’ of future LCVs, it is vital to consider the human-machine interface (HMI) from a user-centred perspective. Specifically, this means understanding the interaction between the driver/passenger and the vehicle, and then designing the user interface to maximise usability, satisfaction and enjoyment.
The HMI Engineering workstream for the Low Carbon Vehicle Technology Project will both develop an understanding of customer requirements from LCV HMI, and evaluate potential HMI solutions through simulation and in-vehicle customer trialling. This will be achieved by employing user-centred approaches to the research in the gathering of data on the opinions, behaviour and needs of low carbon vehicle customers, and using the results to drive development of future HMI solutions. The research will focus specifically on new and unfamiliar technologies and environments which LCV customers will face, and will help identify appropriate HMI solutions for the specific requirements of future LCVs and their drivers.
The workstream will be supported by a recent £5million Centre of Excellence facility at WMG, and an EPSRC funded project on ‘HMI Technologies for Future Vehicles’, which focuses on methods for capturing and optimising ‘voice of the customer’ data relating to conventional automotive user controls. Although this work is not directly investigating LCVs, the learning is complementary and will provide an excellent base of knowledge. Existing partners for both projects include Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre.
The most innovative aspect of the research is the focus on the key differences between user interaction with electric and conventional vehicles, collecting customer-focused data through a variety of both quantitative and qualitative methods, and identifying HMI solutions specifically for the needs of the LCV customer rather than simply trying to adapt existing conventional automotive technologies.
The HMI workstream has an important role in the overall LCV Project as it will address the means by which the customer interacts with the many new technologies to be incorporated into the next generation of low carbon vehicles. Past research has shown that the success of new and unfamiliar technologies in consumer products is heavily dependent on customer acceptance, and that this in turn is strongly influenced by the means by which the customer interacts with the product. Future LCVs will present a range of these new and unfamiliar technologies to the customer and the outputs from the HMI workstream will help our partner organisations to make the interaction with these technologies a positive and rewarding experience for the driver.