Multimodal Interface Experience for Automated Trucks
Heart of Scania - A multimodal interface system that supports drivers of highly automated truck convoys in 2030.
6 weeks | Scania | Umeå Institute of Design | together with Kevin Gaunt, Emily Keller, Kallirroi Pouliadou.
The goal of this project was to get us acquainted with automation in the automotive industry. Specifically, we were asked to create a concept for automation in trucks driving in the highway in the year 2030.
According to the long-haul trucking industry, the driving environment is transforming. We are moving away from driving trucks manually to observing the correct operation of highly autonomous trucks.
The aim of this project was to design the interface for a highly automated truck in 2030 for professional users – or in this case truck drivers. Our idea was to take the needs and values of the truck drivers of 2013 and combine them with the vision of autonomous vehicles and convoys on the highways of 2030. Given these challenges we wanted to humanise the automation technology within the truck, making it a trustworthy companion on the truck operators journey.
We also wanted to give technology a clear point of reference within the truck and finally we aimed to make sure the truck operator remains aware of its actions and decisions at all time. Our proposed concept entitled “Heart of Scania” is multimodal truck interface of an autonomous platooning system in the year 2030. It involves a Head’s-Up-Display (HUD), an interactive steering wheel, voice commands and voice feedback. To illustrate how our “Heart of Scania” concept functions we propose three scenarios (joining a platoon, leaving a platoon and dealing with an emer- gency situation).
This six weeks project was completed in the first semester of the Master of Interaction Design program at Umeå Institute of Design for the ongoing ‘Methods for Designing Autonomous Systems’ (MODAS) project led by industry partners Scania and the Interactive Institute Piteå.
NOTE: Material from the final proposal is missing as Scania has set a patent on certain elements of interaction between the user and the system.
Heart of Scania
Shots from the video displaying some HUD graphics that support highly automated truck platoons in the future
Primary and secondary research
We kicked off the “Working in the Truck of Tomorrow” project deepening our understanding on trucks and automated systems. Our key assumptions are that the trucks of the future will be mostly automated, that the traffic complexity will increase, that both autonomous and the manual vehicles of today will coexist. Regarding automation we also drew inspiration from the automation system in place in air travel.
We then decided to focus on platooning because we see both a high value for automation in trucks on the highway and an interesting tension between the truck drivers’ values and the system’s efficiency.
In addition to the secondary research we also had the opportunity to shadow a truck driver from Ume Assistance AB for a day and interview him while he was doing his job. We met up before 7 o’clock at Dåva kraftvärmeverk a few kilometers outside of Umeå and then drove up north to Skellefteå to deliver three containers of compost. We had prepared a set of open ended questions and followed the basic guidelines of unstructured interviewing as we went through them. Additionally, we interviewed a representative of Scania in regards to their current projects and progress regarding autonomous vehicles.
User Journey and Ideation
To understand what situation our persona faces throughout a workday in 2030 we created a user journey. With our user journey we visualized the context, touch-points and both the users and systems actions at during each important event. We looked at the experience of a truck driver from the moment they enter the highway until the moment they reach their destination.
The purpose of the User Journey mapping was to collect a number of insights and expectations regarding the automated system and the way the user responds to it in the context of the highway. It helped us comprehend how automation could compliment the truck driver’s responsibilities as well as what information is relevant for the automated system.
Similarly to a pilot that is responsible for the operation of an automated aircraft the truck driver’s role is enhanced within the context of an automated platooning system. We therefore decided to call him truck operator, as he is responsible for both the manual and the automated system of the vehicle. Moreover, as Scania’s MODAS project focuses on automation combined with a truck driver in the cabin, we only explored scenarios in which each truck is manned with an operator.
To be able to decide on interactions that match truck operators expectations we decided to put ourselves in the situation and act out each interaction (bodystorming). We used simple props made out of elements we could find around school.
Persona, values and scenarios
Based on the work outlined above we came up with a day in the life description for our persona. We then simplified that description and the interactions occurring within it.
We started by choosing the most relevant moment in the process of platooning, that would also gain the audience’s attention and sharpen its understanding of the context. This was the engagement moment, which also answers the question of what a platoon is and how it works. We also wanted to choose moments throughout the journey that would demonstrate different levels of notification and system feedback while in a fully automated mode.
This was important to us as the truck driver will be free to engage in various activities within the cabin and would only need to be informed about emergency situations and when regaining control of the vehicle is needed. For this reason we chose to design for an emergency situation, as well as the moment where one vehicle is leaving the platoon.
Storyboarding and evaluating scenarios
The Heart of Scania resides in the center of the steering wheel and takes its form from the combination of the Scania logo and a heart
Schematic consistency throughout designing and placing HUD graphics - easier to recall for the driver
We aimed to make sure the truck operator remains aware of its actions and decisions at all time. With this in mind we propose a novel truck interface – “The Heart of Scania”.
Truck operators interact with the Heart of Automation in two ways: primarily through voice interactions, which are triggered by pressing and holding down on its central element; secondarily, through its screen that functions similarly to a large three dimensional trackball.
We wanted to make sure that all the elements - the steering wheel, HUD graphics and supporting graphics were designed in a consistent way - using the shape, which was created from the combination of the Scania logo and a heart. All the HUD graphics were designed having this shape as a base for information display. The graphics inside the shape were also designed using the same corner radius by rescaling the bigger shape. The placement of elements around was determined by the "Heart of Scania" pattern grid.
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