FLOURISH User Needs and Experience Findings
It is important that users accept and trust connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology for the associated benefits to be realised. Potential benefits could be widespread, leading to improvements in safety, accessibility, efficiency and environmental management. Therefore, FLOURISH adopted a user-focused approach to better understand consumer needs and expectations of CAV technology.
FLOURISH explored how this technology can be harnessed to enhance and enable mobility for older adults and those with mobility-related conditions. As the size of the UK’s ageing population continues to rise, it is vital that the needs of this user group are considered, enabling them to remain independent, reducing loneliness and improving well-being. Similarly, the needs of those with mobility-related conditions must be met to support these individuals to remain active in society. Therefore, by understanding the mobility challenges faced by these groups, FLOURISH is contributing to the development of a stronger and more inclusive society.
To understand the needs and expectations of these user groups, FLOURISH utilised an iterative, co-design process. Participants from across the UK were involved in this process through workshops and a series of simulator and live pod trials, conducted by the University of the West of England, Cardiff University, Connected Places Catapult, Designability and Traverse. Age UK was a key FLOURISH partner, providing broader insights into the lives of older people and the mobility challenges currently faced. As a result, it was possible to capture and articulate the needs of users in two distinct areas:
The wider mobility needs of older people and those with mobility-related conditions, and how CAVs might address these.
The needs for how CAVs should function and how older people would interact with them. A key focus of this area was the development of a Human-Machine Interface (HMI) for CAV users.
Wider mobility needs and how CAVs might address these
Ageing can result in a range of physical and cognitive impairments, which can impact on mobility. As a result, older people require transport options that allow them to continue travelling, while catering for these needs. During the FLOURISH workshops, the participants explained that CAVs could address their mobility needs by replacing shortfalls that are often experienced as a result of ageing, and by providing additional journeys that are not currently being made. FLOURISH also explored the types of journeys that are likely to be made by older people when using a CAV, including the length of journeys and the purpose. As well as highlighting the opportunities that CAVs may provide for this group, these results indicate other areas within the transportation sector that could potentially be improved to address older people’s needs, such as public transport.
From engaging with young people with mobility-related conditions during FLOURISH, it is apparent that this user group require transport options that enable them to travel independently and modes that can cater for their physical needs. The participants indicated that CAVs could address these needs, relieving stress and anxiety and providing them with greater independence.
A summary of the needs and expectations gathered during the project is presented in the ‘FLOURISH - Perceptions of Driverless Cars' film produced by Traverse.
FLOURISH - Perceptions of Driverless Cars
How CAVs function and are interacted with
In addition to considering broader mobility needs, FLOURISH considered how CAVs should be designed and operated in order to encourage adoption by our target audience.
While CAVs were viewed by participants in a broadly positive manner, the project highlighted concerns (and thus needs and expectations) that would impact on CAV use by older people. These factors included control, safety, security and, to a lesser extent, cost of ownership and use. It will be important to consider these factors as CAVs continue to be developed and deployed – as well as increasing user trust and acceptance – to ensure that the potential benefits of CAVs can be realised.
To support the development of accessible, user-centric CAVs, FLOURISH also designed and developed a Human-Machine Interface (HMI) to enable users to interact with the vehicle. To measure user requirements of the HMI – including physical, sensory and cognitive needs – the University of the West of England and Cardiff University developed a Standardised Assessment Framework (SAF). Comprised of a series of tests, the SAF can be used to assess an individual’s needs and create a bespoke HMI adapted to the individual. This was used during the FLOURISH pod and simulator trials to assess participants’ needs.
As part of our iterative, user-centred design approach, the FLOURISH HMI was also regularly tested with participants during the simulator and pod trials. As a result, an adaptable HMI was designed with a range of options and preferences to suit different user needs, including colour themes and voice activation.
The key preferences that participants indicated during this process included the desire for the HMI to be simple, clear and easy to operate, and for voice interaction to play an important role – though participants indicated that both touch and voice operation should be available. Participants also emphasised the need for clarity over what the CAV was doing, as well as updates on journey duration and traffic events. The ability to adjust or stop a journey was also suggested by participants. More information about the needs and expectations expressed by users are presented in the final ‘User Needs Report’.
FLOURISH Human-Machine Interface
A wealth of knowledge for the design and implementation of future HMI systems was also generated during FLOURISH and is captured in the report, ‘FLOURISH – Designing user interfaces for older users of future autonomous vehicles’, produced by Designability.
As well as testing and improving the HMI, the simulator and pod trials enabled us to measure user trust and acceptance ratings of CAV technology over time. Understanding how user trust and acceptance is affected by different factors is vital if CAVs are to be adopted by a large proportion of population. To understand a passenger’s experience, novel sensors were used including smart wristbands to measure heart rate and skin conductance, in conjunction with eye-tracking glasses. Measures using this data indicated how user trust varied in certain situations, such as an unplanned emergency stop. Furthermore, FLOURISH partner, Airbus, researched the use of non-contact sensors to interpret a passenger’s experience.
The FLOURISH project concluded in May 2019 and the full results from the simulator and pod trials will be released by the academic partners in the following months. As CAVs continue to be developed and deployed, it will be important for the findings of FLOURISH to be used to ensure that the technology is fit for purpose. This is particularly important for our user group of older people and those with mobility-related conditions; a group that will continue to be a growing segment of society, and who seem to be accepting and supportive of CAVs. Moreover, whilst the project focused on these particular user groups, the learnings gained during FLOURISH may be transferred to other members of society – ensuring the CAVs meet the needs of all users.
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