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Toyota Guardian — Work in progress

We're working on a product proposal aimed at easing people into trusting the future of automony — self-driving cars.

Josh Fan, Michelle Ng, Sarah Tong, Grant Zou   |  On-going product proposal

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The documentation and final stages of this project are still under development. However, I'd be more than happy to discuss the project in more detail upon your request.

We were offered the opportunity to work with Inamoto & Co based on the merits of a panel presentation for a senior design course (IAT 438) prior to this project. Working alongside Chelsea from Inamoto & Co gives our team valuable guidance and industry insights as we work as an auxiliary design cell for their live brief with Toyota. 

The products ultimate goal is to combat today's customer apprehension towards autonomous vehicles. Toyota Guardian, the project's working title, reflects the brand's commitment in all that they do: your personal safety first. We're working to provide a concept that not only relieves distrust in new self-driving cars, but also adapts and evolves with the technology's affordances. That is, we foresee that a similar issue will arise as the newest innovations succeed their predecessors.

 

Role

In our initial foray into Toyota's opportunities, I acted as the team's UX designer and strategist, playing an integral role in reframing the problem and developing concepts based on secondary research throughout our project road. As we move forward with the project, I'm working on creating visual mockups and prototyping.

 

 

Gradually narrowing our focus

Original frame

How might we ease people into trusting self-driving cars?

We knew from the beginning that we had to narrow down the initial pitch. We immediately began thinking of how to thoughtfully constrain the project so we can complete it in a matter of four weeks. Toyota had yet to release a fully automated car, so we had neither customer base or a product to study directly. Toyota's current technology involves lane and breaking assistance designed to keep the driver safer during their drives.

Upon deeper research, we promptly decided on placing to project and its initial impact in the present day, deciding against something overly speculative. Simply put, we hoped our project would be a tangible yet valuable preview of what Toyota has the offer in the near future.

We referenced Raymond Loewy's 'Most Advanced Yet Acceptable'(MAYA) Principle and Stuart Candy/ Anthony Dunne's Futures Diagram to further decide our project direction. We mapped Toyota's development of autonomous cars at each level of the Future's Diagram, with a projection of commercial fully autonomous cars available around 2021. Applying the MAYA Principle, we identified a timeframe of which a 'probable' outcome can be practically designed for. Toyota's race to more autonomy in commercial cars reflects their goal to combat customer apprehension of the technology. Thus, we expanded the project pitch:

 

Reframe 1

How might we ease people into trusting any car?

 

After all, all cars have some level of autonomy, and Toyota's cars will likely include more and more features and technology develops. However, without being able to convince today's drivers of the current autonomous capabilities of cars, we can't hope to engage consumers with even more complicated features. Our approach therefore, consists of providing a foundational understanding of autonomy alongside a tangible preview of future technology. By providing a framework for incremental, gradual introduction to new technology, our product could be sustainable for any future developments.

 

User research

We interviewed current drivers to see why today's autonomous features weren't being used. Aside from just feeling our of control and unsafe, interviewees generally also thought that they currently provided no better ways to carry out everyday tasks. That is, the risk was higher than the benefit that was being offered. This was also aggravated by a lack of understanding of how and when these features act. Safety was the number one priority for drivers in regards to autonomous technology.

We've also engaged car dealerships and test drive opportunities to further expand our understanding of trust between a consumer and their vehicle.

 

Reframe 2

How might we highlight a car's ability to provide personal safety in a transparent and digestible way?

 

 

Where we are now

We've since studied and tested several concepts that have given us valuable insights to continue forward.

If users are able to reflect on the benefits of autonomy today, we'll better prepare them for new developments tomorrow.  As more advanced sensors, cameras, automation and safety features are introduced, we have more opportunities and touchpoints we can leverage. Our vision for our product is that eventually, a driver can successfully reap the benefits of today's cutting edge technology and begin to ask "What else can my car do for me?" In that moment, Toyota would be a step further into ushering in a new era of autonomy.