An Autonomous Vehicle That Earns Your Trust

project info


collaborating partner

Karl Marteliusson (TD)

Hector Mejía (IxD)

10 weeks

Service design course

Umeå Institute of Design



How might we create trust between an autonomous vehicle and it's user?



Journey is an autonomous vehicle that communicates with the passengers.

Autonomous vehicles are going to open up a whole range of ways of traveling by car. It will be possible to leave the city by night and wake up in paradise, for example.

These new usage scenarios will influence their design, their functions and affordances.


Journey explores how an autonomous vehicle can interact with it's passengers to create the maximum feeling of trust and safety while traveling long distances and adapting to their needs and activities.

Traveling Modes

We defined 3 different modes of interaction with the vehicle based on what the different activities and intentions of use from the interviewed potential users.


Active (autonomous)

Sleeping (autonomous)

Control the vehicle and

feel the power

Relax and get comfortable while enjoying free time

Take advantage of autonomous mode to keep traveling even when sleeping

 Multimodal Micro-Interactions

We looked at two main elements when designing the micro-interactions:

Where to display the information based on the position of the user within the car.

Which information to display when, in order to avoid overload.

Driving Mode

When the user wants to drive, only the relevant information like the speed, a navigation guide, the next stop, are displayed on the dashboard which is directly in their eyesight range.

Mode Switch

Changing from driving to autonomous mode requires a set of interactions that are clear, obvious and safe.


1. Request change of mode through voice control,

2. Confirm action by pushing in/pulling out the steering wheel.

Autonomous Mode

The vehicle shall indicate that it is in control and hint at what it is doing in an unobtrusive manner, considering that this is most likely when users want to do their own thing or sleep.


The bottom light indicates that the vehicle is still in control and swishes in the direction the car is going to.

Adapting interior vehicle design to user's needs and wants

The luggage compartment in Journey is located at the front of the vehicle and it is accessible from the passenger's seat. In long distance traveling, having at hand everything you might want to use without stopping makes a difference in comfort.



Johan Sandström talking about dividing the information between the dashboard and the steering wheel.

On what the steering wheel communicates when entering driving mode.

"If it is like saying something about what the car is doing (...) then maybe it is good to have it there, because then I can choose whether to look at it or not ..."

We started with a workshop to find out how people would travel through Scandinavia if they had a fully autonomous vehicle and a weekend to spare.


What would they do in the car and out? Where would they go, where would they stop and why?

We discovered that people want to stop a lot and be able to do different activities when not driving like reading, watching a movie, playing board games, knitting, sorting files, etc., and then, we adapted the car to offer a space suitable for these activities.

We initiated the conversation about luggage by asking the participants to think what they would take on their trip and to choose between different types of backpacks/suitcases; we got insights on how they would pack differently depending on the trip or how they would divide their things in different bags. In general, it just made clear that it was a crucial part of traveling and we had to address it.


We prototyped the space of the car with real measurements to imagine how we could arrange the different modes of use and where could we put the luggage in a place that would be practical but that wouldn't interfere.


What should the interior of the vehicle communicate?

Traveling behaviour

Process Video


Exploring how people would travel if they did not have to drive.

the process

The hardest part of owning and caring for a plant is interpreting it's needs. Through sound, we created a way for people to understand them, just as they might do with a pet.

final thoughts

Reflexions and My Role

The future of mobility is certainly a very present topic in today's design discussions because it will encompass not only Transportation Design but also Interaction and Service Design. Generally, thinking about the future, at least for me, ends up in questioning our human essence; are we really going to be that different in 20 years? will we not enjoy the same basic things we enjoy now?  and this partly guided our development, taking human needs like feeling safe or in control.


We carried out an interesting and fun research stage with lots of workshops, prototypes and tests. We put a lot of focus in exploring the communication during the transitions between driving and autonomous modes. Autonomous vehicles will need to give us signals that everything is under control in order for us to trust them, so we envisioned what these could be and how to subtly include them in a car interface.


We based the car concept on research findings: what are the needs of a long distance traveler? what are the possibilities enabled by autonomous driving? how does this affect the vehicle both physically and in behaviour?


My role as one of the IxD contributors was to think about the user and the ways we could do research about the overall experience of the specific type of traveler we were looking at.  I also contributed in the real size prototyping of the car space, which was very useful to enable different thought processes but also a clever way to experiment with this while not having a real vehicle. I also worked on the visual representation of the interior interface and prototyped the interactions as video footage while trying to bring into it all the previous research and discussions.

© All rights reserved. Melissa Hellmund.