How to balance safety and autonomy in an future truck environment?
Created for the Professional Users course at the UID Interaction Design programme, Scania's Truck of Tomorrow is an envision of how truck environments my change to support poor visibility conditions in the future - a briefing selected by Scania during the course.
During our investigations we identified that poor visibility is highly localized and changeable, interfering in the drivers’ reaction to their environment.
The proposed systems focus on balancing driver perception of their environments as a way of preventing unexpected problems that vary from delays to serious accidents.
Our contributions towards this goal are: A long term planning tool for making drivers more aware of conditions along their route, tactile representation of stress levels from groups of drivers ahead, optical camera arrays that de-weather snow particles and a 360º visibility screen that works with cameras on the exterior of the truck presenting both augmented and virtual reality, and binary system of switching from automatic to manual mode. Further investigation and implementation of these technologies will create a more supportive driver experience in the future.
A symbiosis between automation and safety perception
A major issue with automation occurs when drivers are unaware of how the automation is functioning. We propose a binary system setup to prevent this confusion. While in automation mode, the wheel is retracted into the dashboard. The driver must deliberately pull the wheel to extend it back to driving position in order to resume complete control of the vehicle. A retractable touch surface works in combination with the steering wheel to allow interaction with the following features.
Planning Tool and Augmented Reality
Bad weather and poor visibility can be long term problems while driving. Considering the current user needs of planning and communication, a new planning tool would provide information about potential hazards and delays on the road and can support decision making i.e. planning breaks.
The planning tool is composed by three main elements: a progress bar (overview), a contextual forecast view and an eco driving widget.
The progress bar helps the driver to keep track of his position, past and future breaks during the journey whereas the contextual forecast displays a section of the journey with complementary information about upcoming weather, topography, and alerts the driver in case of danger. In parallel, the driver can track how automation deals with eco efficiency while in automatic mode, and keep himself aware of his own capability while in manual mode.
We wanted to create a system that used drivers as passive input sources, as opposed to a completely mechanical system. Our initial proposal was to create a system by which the truck and the driver work in symbiosis in order to prevent both human and machine errors. In the end we settled on passively collecting stress levels from a network of drivers. When there is an upcoming area of high stress, the drivers is alerted via a vibration feedback in the seat of the truck.
Our concept integrates a multi camera sensor array, similar to the one developed by Vaish and Wilburn, capable of creating a composited video feed which removes particles that obscure vision. By using offset cameras and linking the multiple angles together, the array is capable of calculating a de-weathered view of the road, eliminating falling snow. This array is housed on the exterior of the truck, supplying video feeds to be displayed on the windscreen.
The 360º Screen was inspired by a heads up display(HUD) being tested in modern day fighter jet cockpits. The 360º screen mimics this interaction between the driver and their surrounding environment. By linking a set of video feeds from the sides and rear of the truck, and compositing these feeds into a complete panorama, the driver is situated within an environment where he has a complete vision of his surroundings.
An immersive journey into professional users' context
This project was an introductions to research methods, both academic and ethnographic. Each group had the opportunity to follow a truck driver during a workday and this was used as inspiration and input. Throughout the project, Creative Techniques were used as part of our iterative process. In order to better envision the potential problem areas pointed in the brief, our process started with the Project in a Day method. Brainstorming sessions were used to explore and make use of the secondary research findings. Subsequently, the most relevant ideas were placed in a short scenario and presented, via storyboards, during a feedback session with the project mentors. An affinity diagram was used to bridge the interview findings with the ideation phase. To define a future persona, we integrated the social and technological trends to the user needs previously identified. Including the revised scenario and persona, new brainstorming sessions and storyboards were used to finalize our concept’s ideation. A detailed journey through these methods is available at our project report.