Bournemouth University researchers investigate what Gen Z want from a self-driving car?

New research into self-driving UX: horse and rider or Jeeves and Wooster?

Bournemouth University has highlighted the work of Dr Kyungjoo Cha, Senior Lecturer in Product Design, in helping Hyundai and Kia to ensure that their self-driving vehicles live up to the expectations of Gen Z users – those born between 1997 and 2012.

Specialising in user experience (UX) design, and working in partnership with Hyundai Motor Company’s Holistic UX Group, Dr Cha began the “auZentic” project to understand how young people perceive their digital life and entertainment needs.

Dr Kyungjoo Cha helping self-driving vehicles live up to the expectations of Gen Z users
Dr Kyungjoo Cha is helping self-driving vehicles live up to Gen Z expectations

“This is a fast-moving sector, with the development of new technologies and artificial intelligence,” she said. “The automobile sector has invested a great deal in research and development for autonomous vehicles, and now Hyundai and Kia have identified the need to understand what will drive the next generation’s experience.

“Generation Z were born with the internet. Their perceptions around entertainment and digital life are different to older generations. Understanding this is crucial for designing the vehicles of the future. It will not necessarily be just about chilling out in the vehicle – we found they are passionate about advocacy and getting behind projects in their digital life.”

Ongoing self-driving partnership

Kia and Hyundai’s positive response to the initial work led to a second stage of the partnership, investigating how users will want to interact and communicate with an autonomous vehicle.

“The people we spoke to gave us many examples of the type of relationship they could have,” said Dr Cha. “Some suggested a relationship like that between a horse and its rider, we also had comparisons to a butler and their employer, or an aeroplane pilot and auto-pilot. Some also spoke about being team players with their cars.

“Different contexts will determine how people want to communicate. For example, if someone was feeling emotional or upset, they might not want to talk.”

The suggested solution is a multi-model approach offering several options for communication between car and user, which could provide safety benefits as well as better user experiences.

2019 Hyundai video

Back in 2019, in the early days of Cars of the Future, this futuristic video of Hyundai’s EV wireless charging and automated valet parking concept was one of our most popular features.

Hyundai self-driving concept 2019

Largest ever dataset to inform off-road self-driving vehicles.

Advanced self-driving lessons for future off-road robots

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) School of Computer Science, in Pennsylvania, have created what is thought to be the largest ever dataset to inform off-road self-driving vehicles.

In stark contrast to safety-first city tests, the high-octane study involved ragging a Yamaha Viking All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) around a muddy, hilly test site near Pittsburgh.

Video: Carnegie Mellon University off-road testing for self-driving AI

A human driver guided the vehicle using a joystick and traditional braking, with the bumpy ride tracked by proprioceptive and exteroceptive sensors plus video.

The result was a dataset called TartanDrive consisting of 200,000 real-world off-road interactions covering individual wheel speeds and suspension shocks.

Self-driving scientists

Wenshan Wang, project scientist at the CMU Robotics Institute, commented: “Unlike autonomous street driving, off-road driving is more challenging because you have to understand the dynamics of the terrain in order to drive safely and to drive faster.”

Samuel Triest, a Master’s student in robotics and lead author of the team’s paper, added: “The dynamics of these systems tend to get more challenging as you add more speed.

“You drive faster, you bounce off more stuff. A lot of the data we were interested in gathering was this more aggressive driving, more challenging slopes and thicker vegetation because that’s where some of the simpler rules start breaking down.”

Over the years, many self-driving experts have predicted that “off-road applications might come firstthe logic being that private geofenced areas are more predictable environments.

This study is different, teaching AI to drive by pushing the boundaries of performance and safety in more extreme conditions.