Service Design User Enactment • Fall 2015
The act of driving is symbolic of personal autonomy and freedom. When an elderly individual reaches the point where they’re deemed no longer fit to drive, their caretaker needs to go through the stressful process of taking away the car keys. Trek explored how semi-autonomous cars could potentially help mitigate the anxiety experienced by elderly drivers and their caretakers.
Over the course of the semester, my three teammates and I researched ways to utilize a vehicle's sensor technology to develop a friendlier, more accessible driving experience. Our user enactment scenarios evaluated participants' needs and wants surrounding Trek's ecosystem: in-car notifications and feedback as well as the corresponding mobile app.
We first explored several other problem spaces involving vehicles before deciding to focus on the aging population. As smart cars increase in popularity coupled with a rapidly growing number of seniors, we felt that there was an opportunity to investigate the social relationship between the two.
To gain a better understanding of this domain, we spoke with caretakers who were familiar with the process of trying to dissuade their parents from driving. A common theme that appeared throughout our interviews was concern about keeping an elderly person’s mental well-being in check after they’ve lost their driving privileges. They emphasized how important the physical car keys meant to the seniors in their care—these were literally the “keys” to their independence.
Our conversations with caretakers helped us develop four themes that were turned into corresponding visual storyboards for speed dating. We ran these storyboard scenarios past a mix of caretakers and individuals who had close relationships with elderly people to see how they reacted to our proposed designs.
Participants generally liked the idea of owning a smart car that continuously provided feedback and assumed control in unsafe conditions, but also thought that it shouldn’t be limited to seniors. They wanted a semi-autonomous car that could evaluate a driver’s performance earlier on, compared to when their abilities began to deteriorate, to track trends and patterns over a longer period of time. This would give younger drivers the chance to develop better safety habits sooner and as they grew older, gradually transition them away from driving at a rate based on their individual needs.
User Enactment and Results
We used our collected feedback to devise three futuristic smart car scenarios:
- Unsafe driving episodes
- Trek mobile app and having to take away the car keys
- Trek taking control of the vehicle in unsafe driving conditions
Our user enactment setup consisted of a mock smart car outfitted with a steering wheel, front seats, and windshield with a simulated HUD. Participants assumed the role of an elderly driver while my teammates acted out the car’s functions and pretended to be the senior’s caretaker. I was responsible for moderating each session and walking participants through the given scenarios.
Throughout our user enactments, we discovered that there needs to be a better way to communicate to the driver when the car took control. We attempted to provide participants with visual notifications in the HUD and haptic feedback through the steering wheel, but they didn’t understand what was happening or went unnoticed. Furthermore, participants echoed sentiments from our previous research that if Trek would to be successful, drivers should buy the car service for themselves rather than have it be forced on them later in life.