The autonomous vehicle is more than just a blurred dream that is still off in the distant future; it’s already happening. Recently, the first self-driving taxi service has been launched in Singapore. It is predicted that it’s only a matter of a couple of years before fully automated driving vehicles will be available for purchase on the consumer’s market (Tesla is already taking incremental steps to make semi-autonomous driving vehicles available to the public). However, only a few companies like Google and Volvo have been testing fully automated driving cars on public roads.
To provide a better context on the technology we want to discuss in this article, we can refer to a report from Gasser and Westhoff titled “BASt-study: Definitions of automation and legal issues in Germany," where they proposed five levels of autonomous driving:
- Manual driving
- Driver assistance
- Partially automated driving
- Highly automated driving
- Fully automated driving
Today, several companies are already manufacturing advanced driver assistance systems (levels 3 and 4 of the list) on many of their latest models. Their features consisting of adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping systems, forward collision warning, curve speed warning, automated parking, speed regulation systems, and blind-spot monitoring.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the autonomous vehicle
There are advantages and downsides associated with the introduction of the autonomous vehicle to the market:
- Safety is the primary driver. In a hypothetical world where every car is fully automated, it might achieve the goal of zero accidents on the road.
- It can improve mobility and the Inclusiveness of older adults and people with disabilities. By taking away the “burden” of constant attention to the road and reaction times in case of hazard, mobile disabilities and others such as visually impaired people or people with cognitive impairments can be overcome.
- Another advantage is the enhancement of fuel efficiency by optimizing the route and speed.
On the other hand, research has also uncovered some potential pain points deriving from the introduction to the public of autonomous vehicles.
- The most important among the potential barriers in the adoption of automation is trust.
- If users do not trust the automation, then, it is going to be a problem.
- At the same time, if the users trust the system too much, being overly reliant and overestimating what the system can do, they will risk to disengage themselves from the system and their awareness and attention will decrease. One of the consequences of this behavior is that it can become slower and problematic when drivers have to take over control.
- The increase of monitoring tasks required by automated vehicles raises another concern: information overload.
UX Challenges of Autonomous Vehicles
There are also challenges that the UX of the autonomous vehicle has to take into account:
- Over time Road rage is becoming more and more an issue on the road. Even with the introduction of autonomous vehicles, road rage can be introduced to other drivers’ intentional behaviors (e.i. tailgating).
- Some drivers have an anxious driving style. Autonomous driving vehicles could introduce another source of anxiety since the driver might feel less in control over the outcome of the ride.
The vehicles of the future are being designed and tested today. Self-driving cars are no longer are far from the imagination of what our future could look like. As a result, it is important to consider the way in which people will use and interact with autonomous vehicles. By changing the way these vehicles interface with their drivers and taking away the need for the drivers to keep their attention on the road, the UX playing field also has to adapt to different rules.