The secret UX issues that will make (or break) self-driving cars

In an unassuming research lab, Volkswagen is solving problems that Tesla and Google haven’t come close to cracking. Cliff Kuang reports for Fast Company.

In his article he features the work of Brian Lathrop, who runs the UX group at Volkswagen’s little-known Electronics Research Laboratory, and has set out three things an autonomous car has to get right, plus one:

Above all, we need to know what mode a car is in, whether it’s driving itself or not. The second principle Lathrop calls the Coffee Spilling Principle: We need to know what something is going to do, before it’s actually done. Third, and perhaps most vital in fostering trust, is that we need to know what the car is seeing. And finally, we need perfectly clear transitions when a car takes control, or when we take control from a car.

He concludes:

As new technologies replace human tasks, they will have to behave in ways that we can relate to. It’s not enough to make a dashboard just easy to use, or easy to read. And while we don’t need a dashboard to have a full-blown personality, it’ll have to have personality traits. It’ll need to be calming, communicative, or helpful, as the situation demands.