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Automotive Design Insights

Designing the Connected Car: Peter Skillman at SxSW

HERE design guru Peter Skillman told the audience at South-by-Southwest on Sunday that connecting cars to the Internet isn’t about integrating the experience you’re used to on a smartphone. “Instead, it will be about fundamentally rethinking what’s possible in the automotive environment.”

Peter Skillman at SXSW

While we’ve already made great strides, connected cars are still in their infancy. Today, from around a billion cars on the road, only 23 million are connected to the Internet.

By 2020, we expect that figure to rise to 152 million.

But connected cars are not just cars with another screen installed. They can do far more than we currently can, as our automobiles join the Internet of Things. “We can start to envision a future where no-one ever dies in a car crash,” as cars start to make the right decisions for us, regulate our speed and detect what’s ahead.

Optimized For Driving

But it’s early days, and right now it’s more likely that people will mount their tablets or use their smartphones while they’re driving. The thing is, that cars today are optimised for driving, not keeping us up to date.

And when we try use our smartphones in the car it can be enormously dangerous.

Strategy Analytics conducted research for the US highways authority and found that text messaging while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times. Even looking at a map on your phone isn’t safe – doing so increases your crash risk by seven times.


So we need to rethink this.

Finding the right ways to connect cars to the Internet and give drivers the services they want in a useful, safe way has three ingredients: Love, Design and Location.


All you need is love

People love their phones so much that they take them everywhere. About 80 per-cent of teenagers in America actually sleep with their mobiles on or near their beds.

But people don’t yet love their embedded systems. “With connectivity car makers have the opportunity to create the magic spark that other device makers have achieved.”


Without in car connectivity and that magic spark, however, people hold on to their phones when they are in the car. The lack of love for car systems is creating more dangerous roads and impeding the path to a safer world of highly automated driving.

My way and the highway: design to the rescue

To create this magic spark, we will need to rethink the design of in-car systems, so they provide the sort of partner you can love: one you can trust and depend on, that supports you and knows you.


From his days in mobile phone design, Peter learned four principles that crucial for good design. An experience has to be personal – people want their content with them everywhere. It also needs to be pure: concentrating on delivering the core essentials as cleanly and simply as possible. Every day essentials means prioritizing the little things you do every day to make them better. Finally more emotion is better than less when it comes to designing a system that you want to use every day.


Location holds everything together

“Location combined with connectivity and powerful sensor data will completely transform what is possible in a car.” This is the third, magic ingredient that brings everything together.

Your car will be part of your ecosystem of connected devices. You’ll be able to look up or plan a journey at home, then hop into the car and all that information will already be on-board.

But the key factor isn’t just about the car understanding how to get to where you’re going.

It’s about it understanding you.


A highly precise and constantly updating map can actually help a car see around the corner predicting what’s ahead and adapting to the circumstances. It can even allow a car to learn about how a person drives.

Ultimately the intersection of love, design and location can completely reinvent the in car experience. From advanced driver analytics today to self-driving cars in the future these elements allow car makers to transform driving and make interaction with a machine into a far more human experience.

What’s not to love about that?

What would it take for you to trust an automated car? Let us know in the comments section below.

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