What is a premium experience like in a self-driving car? Audi has published research in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO around just that as part of the Audi “25th Hour” project.
In this round of research, the experts on human-machine interaction investigated how the car interior can become a perfect workplace.
The findings will help Audi provide every user with a personally optimised car interior in the future.
“When cars no longer have a steering wheel, premium mobility can be newly defined.
“In the future, people traveling from A to B will be able to surf the Internet at leisure, play with their children – or do work at an efficient pace without distraction, says Melanie Goldmann, head of Culture and Trends Communication at Audi.
“Together with the experts from the Fraunhofer Institute, we want to find out what is most important for ensuring the optimal use of time in a self-driving car.”
To look at how this is possible, Audi has built a special driving simulator that reproduces the situation of automated driving, with a variable interior and without a steering wheel, at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart.
Large-scale projections convey the impression of driving in a city at night. Using displays, the researchers can introduce digital distractions, the windows can be dimmed, and the colour of the lighting and background noise can be altered.
The focus of the study was millennials, those who are born after 1980 and are the group which is most receptive to self-driving cars.
Those who took part in theexperiment had to carry out various tasks requiring concentration – comparable with a work situation, in a self-driving car.
As they did this, their brain activity was measured (EEG), as well as reaction times and error quotas, and subjective impressions were noted.
The results of the EEG were without doubt: in an environment without disturbances, the human brain is more relaxed.
The windows were dimmed, the light settings optimised, and digital messages were suppressed.
In this environment, tasks were completed to a higher standard and in a more efficient manner.
By contrast, a driving situation that was “close to reality” in the robot car resulted in greater demands on the brain: in this case, the participants saw some advertising, received information from social networks, and did not have dimmed lighting scenarios.
“The results show that the task is to find the right balance.
In a digital future, there are no limits to what can be imagined.
“We could offer everything in the car – really overwhelm the user with information,” says Goldmann.
“The right information should reach the user at the right time,” he added.
The “25th Hour” project
Today drivers spend an average of about 50 minutes per day at the wheel.
In the 25th Hour project, Audi is investigating how this time could be used better in a self-driving automobile.
The project is based on the assumption that an intelligent human-machine interface will learn the user’s individual preferences and adapt flexibly.
In this way, Audi customers will gain full control of their time – they will become masters in time management.
As a first step, the project team looked at people in Hamburg, San Francisco, and Tokyo, focusing on two aspects. How is ‘info-tainment’ used in the car today?
And what would people like to do with their free time in the car of the future?
The results were then discussed with a variety of experts, including psychologists, anthropologists, and urban and mobility planners.
As the second step, the Audi team defined three time modes that are conceivable in a self-driving car: quality time, productive time, and time for regeneration.
In so-called quality time, people spend their time, for example, on activities with their children or phoning family and friends.
In productive time, they usually work. In down time they relax by reading, surfing the Internet, or watching a film.
To research these time modes further, Audi recruited the help of scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute with the team is principally concentrating on productive time throughout this current research series.