This year has seen steady movement towards a new age of automobility. Headlines celebrated the introduction of Tesla's Autopilot system. We experienced the first widespread vehicle recall due to hacking vulnerabilities. The underlying ethics of algorithms being written for autonomous vehicles were discussed. These technological breakthroughs, essential security enhancements and healthy debates over artificial intelligence all herald the approach of a new age that promises to be as significant as the coming of the industrial revolution. We can already sense the possibilities and opportunities ahead. IDEO explored future automobility scenarios through a point of view which can be viewed at: ideo.com/automobility. Designers capable of considering systems as a whole and applying design thinking through considering human needs, balancing the benefits of breakthrough technologies and identifying new business paradigms will be essential in realizing the full promise of this new age of automobility.
Automobiles as a "third space." Designers will shift to considering other activities other than driving as autonomous vehicles become available.
As autonomous vehicles become commonplace, there is a profound upside to getting things right by design. The number of people killed or injured in automobile accidents will drop dramatically. Approximately 33,000 people lose their lives and 2.2 million people are injured in car accidents each year in the United States alone. Today, 90% of automobile accidents are caused by human error. Through thoughtful design, we can finally address the tragic human cost associated with our mobility.
We can also ease the burden placed on our governments and our cities. Americans spend $230 billion annually to cover the costs of accidents, accounting for 2 to 3 percent of our GDP. Clean-powered fleets of on-demand, constantly moving, shared vehicles will keep us sustainably on the move. Valuable city space once used to park cars for 95% of their lifespan will be freed up, ushering in new forms of urban renewal.
Our planet will benefit broadly too. It is estimated that one shared autonomous vehicle could replace 11 conventional cars. Other quality of life benefits will emerge. Unburdened by the need to drive, commuters will recover time to be productive, connected or entertained in new ways. As designers, we will have the opportunity to design engaging new touch points for what is predicted to become an $87 billion autonomous vehicle market by 2030.
Yet, with all this promise on the horizon, designer involvement is essential if we are to avoid unintended consequences. Increased unemployment, social fragmentation and the ravages of poorly designed artificial intelligences could accompany the automobility era just as difficult working conditions, child labor, unprecedented pollution and social unrest came along with the industrial revolution. As Neil Postman argues, it is impossible for a technological innovation to have only a one-sided effect. History bears this out and to help insure that the balance of future innovations prove to be in the service of advancing humanity, designers need to help shape our path to progress. With emergent artificial intelligence just on the horizon, doing so has never been more important.
As designers, we will have the opportunity to design engaging new touch points for what is predicted to become an $87 billion autonomous vehicle market by 2030.
The good news is that in addition to saving lives, our treasure and the planet, designers will improve people's lives by thoughtfully designing for a new type of space in the age of automobility. This new "third space" will exist between the home and work. "Third spaces" will move autonomously and require new interaction affordances for both work and play. They will likely be a mix of shared and owned "third spaces". They will present new opportunities and challenges as designers address the customization of individually owned "third spaces" and work to avoid the undesirable "tragedy of the commons" phenomenon sometimes associated with shared ownership. Finally, new connected, contextually aware services with seamless gesture or voice interfaces need to be designed.
All of this constitutes new and exciting areas for designers to apply their craft and design thinking towards. Making the most of this exciting new age of automobility will not be without challenges. That said, the potential for designers to move us all forward both figuratively and emotionally has never been greater.
More from Core77's 2015 Year in Review
• 15 of Your Favorite Posts from 2015
• The Coming Age of Automobility and What It Means for Designers
• 10 Clever, Innovative or Bizarre Design Processes from 2015
Material News You Can Use
• 10 Brilliant and Beautiful Objects from Our 'Designing Women' Series
• 12 Projects to Inspire Future Living
• Design Entrepreneurs Were Killing it in 2015
• The Year in Furniture Designs, Part 1: The Beautiful, the Innovative and the Unusual
• The Year in Furniture Designs, Part 2: Design/Build Techniques and Learning from the Past and Present
• 15 Tools and Tool-Based Projects We Loved in 2015
• 8 New Types of Digital Fabrication Machines
• 17 Random and Amazing Phenomena We Saw This Year
• The Best Product Design GIFs of 2015