What if (autonomous) cars could communicate on human terms?

How would they do it? What would that be like?

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We asked some humans to find out.

Project: E//motive (interaction control interface)

Challenge: Trust issues with AVs stem from a perceived lack of control. So, what does it really mean to be in control?

Method: Card-sorting to determine information groupings, interior behavior study to group interactions

Result: Human-centered vehicle dynamics interface (+simulator)

Team: Yihao Duan and Jamie Goldstein

Role: Secondary research, ideation framework, project strategy, testing documentation and synthesis, and design/construction of prototypes

Duration: 14 weeks


A simple card-sorting activity asked people to pick the things they wanted an AV to communicate to them. Groupings of these results formed the basis for the interface.


Movable mounts and printed graphics on a full-scale prototype invited people to put the information they wanted to see, where they wanted to interact with it.


A basic simulator and renderings demonstrated the final interior layout and interface.

What about mobility-as-a-meaningful-service?

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What do mobility gaps look like?

Project: Shift trial performance criteria (aiPod/Innovate UK)

Challenge: How do you define and position a mobility-as-a-service offering within existing travel modes?

Method: Quantitative analysis, business development

Result: Performance criteria for cities, competitive landscape for leadership and investor pitch materials for fundraising

Duration: 16 weeks

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A plurality of Londoners take transit, and transfers are not very common, so a simple line analysis shows where a lot of people go, and where they can’t.


Zooming in, mobility analysis of upselected boroughs shows how the neighborhoods relate, and where to target a service deployment.


A competitive landscape describes the industries and stakeholders of a city-integrated trial, informing a canvas process to tell the story of the business for investors.

AI is eating the world. What are you doing?  

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Project: Should I develop an AI?

Team: Gautham Varma

Role: Ideation, brainstorming, visual/logical flow and final graphics

Duration: 3 weeks

Challenge: With all the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, how might a company develop a strategic position?

Method: Visual sense-making

Result: Infographic and online explainer (take the test!)

The infographic uses flow-chart logic to parse the order of high-level questions surrounding AI strategy. These are not technical in nature, but rather talk about the nature of the experience and its importance to a brand or company’s product definition.

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This is a story about love, life, and magic.  

Project: Abracadabra (for Renault)

Challenge: How do you create moments of surprise and delight inside an autonomous vehicle?

Method: Visual storytelling to illuminate valuable in-car interpersonal interactions

Result: Magic interactions

Team: Wending Li

Role: Project strategy, strategic framework, storyline and final visuals.

Duration: 3 weeks


Abracadabra is Hebrew for “I create as I speak.” Magic can create superfluous surprises, such as using captured 360-degree video from previous drives and augmented reality to share old memories…


But it can be meaningful too, maintaining just the right level of distraction and forward-focus within the car to provoke an important conversation, and maybe taking the long way home to keep the magic going. In the end, its a time machine.

C’est la magie de la vie, dans la voiture à vivre.

Would you like to come on an adventure? 


Project: Cliff

Team: Andres Felipe Alvarez Barbosa, Wending Li and Anshul Malhan

Role: Research, frameworks for project goals, strategy and ideation development, plans for all physical prototypes and CAD models for all final graphics

Duration: 28 weeks

Challenge: When asked what features they valued in a self-driving car, (US) millennials ranked the ability of the car to actually drive itself second-to-last. What would be a compelling automobility experience in a self-driving future? How will self-driving cars engage their (potential) users?

Method: Contextual research, full-scale prototyping

Result: Companion vehicle and user experience for the future of adventure


How do comfort and discomfort act as bookends to a new automotive experience?


Cliff is an adventure companion- matching users’ liked experiences and memories to suggest new ones, and using a goal-based navigation interface to take on challenges with the user.


Full-scale prototype (and VR journey) demonstrated interior features that engage the user from the inside out- a center seat with movable bolsters, a space-frame with panoramic views and a down-road screen that visualizes the vehicle’s sensor suite.

What if you could just go?  

Project: Where do you need?

Challenge: Multimodal mobility services are complex and layered. How far can a single screen take you? Can a mobility subscription be as easy as the city itself?

Method: User experience innovation to simplify multimodal planning, business model development to integrate services with cities

Result: Seamless multimodal journeys

Team: Yihao Duan and Jamie Goldstein

Role: Secondary research, business model development, user experience strategy, video content creation

Duration: 14 weeks

A model that makes sense to travelers is one that aims to build up activity while providing mobility. By offering a deeply discounted subscription to riders who take transit when it makes sense (and discounting rides to the places poorly served by transit,) travelers are encouraged to go more places and cities are equipped with the data to build out effective transit services for them over time.

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Lin’s journey is typical of young Millennial travelers in vibrant, dense-yet-uneven cities. Combining an interface that clearly communicates what matters about her trips and a subscription service that always gives her options and keeps her accountable to her actions, she gets around her city with whatever works.

Can we give Pasadena back to the people? 

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Project: Green//Union

Challenge: Downtown Pasadena sits beside one of LA’s busiest freeways, but 30% of its residents walk to work. How should space be allocated between such wildly different needs?

Method: Quantitative analysis

Result: Multimodal transportation system that puts people first but works for everyone

Team: Sung Kim

Role: Research, project strategy, transportation network/systems design, layout and 3D CAD

Duration: 6 weeks


As far back as 1935, transit (blue) and traffic (red) flow diagrams show an obvious gap in effective transit coverage through Pasadena to points west; this gap still exists. A micro-BRT system with a regional hub in downtown Pasadena would provide a long-missing link.


Empty freeway median land can be re-built as a parking garage with direct freeway access and a rooftop park doubling downtown Pasadena’s green space.


Colorado Boulevard is the main thoroughfare- with reduced parking circulation traffic and increased transit use taking the pressure off, remaining vehicles can be diverted to nearby Green and Union streets, opening up a pedestrian plaza where regional BRT, downtown-LA-bound light rail and locals on foot get along together.

This is not a bone.

Or is it?


Project: Bistro in Vitro

Team: Francesca Barchiesi

Role: I designed all products/models pictured.

Duration: 10 weeks

Challenge: Revolutions in the production of food (such as lab-grown meat) present the opportunity for new food cultures as well. How will we eat? Who decides what is natural?

Method: Trend history, rapid prototyping

Result: Artefacts exhibited at the Deutsches Museum and an illustrated, printed speculative cookbook (2014 Dutch Design Award recipient)


Once meat can be grown without animals, what will become of the traits evolved in both people and product for their bones?


Can the machines used to cultivate lab-grown meat become part of the food products themselves?


What natural imagery should new food products evoke?

Better sports protection starts at the spine.


Project: Halo (by Aexos) early testing prototypes

Client: Charles Corrigan (Aexos)

Role: Initial prototype design

Duration: 8 weeks

Challenge: The human spine and neck provide a near-perfect model for restraining torsional impact, and protecting them should only amplify their natural protective design. How can their shape and function be rationalized in 3D CAD for prototyping?

Method: 3D scanning, parametric CAD

Result: First-stage prototypes

Do these maps say anything meaningful anymore? 

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What if maps got space and time all wrong?

Project: Off the map

Challenge: In 2012, just 51% of US 16-19-year-olds held a driver’s license. As single-occupant, human-piloted driving becomes less common, how will maps and other spatial representation systems and assistants evolve to catch up with their users’ changing needs and behaviors?

Method: Ethnographic study

Result: Place-finding framework, language and spatial representation system

Duration: 28 weeks

Free time has high stakes- users need their tools to answer two key questions: where can I get from here, (and) what is it like? Cartographic maps don’t show the one thing we can’t tell: time.

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The biggest obstacle to curiosity- the natural desire to seek out the unknown- is a complete inability to track, measure and compare travel time. So, what if maps showed time instead of space?

That would require a completely different way of structuring and storing data about places and travel. Travel time changes throughout the day- triangulate space accounts for the differences in time between multiple places.

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Yet it might be worth it- nearly all of the touchpoints of new mobilities use a cartographic map as their central UI. TNC apps show you where you are, but not what you could be doing.

Maps aid in the pursuit of a goal, but what if you don’t already know what you want?

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A place-finding toolkit allows digital tools to answer those two critical questions in a glance- where can I get from here? (and) what is it like?

What would that mean for travelers, the tools they use, the places they go and the things they do? The ability to act on their natural curiosity about the world around them with meaningful help from their mobility services.

These are not visions of the future- these are ideas of how and why we move.

Do I have your attention?

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