— 2017

Technology and culture are changing people’s needs and expectations of the world. This article is looking at these cultural and technological trends and how they are influencing and making an impact on the automotive industry.

People want the convenience of having a car, but without the commitment of owning it.

People demand flexibility and freedom

People want flexibility in their lives when it comes to what product they own and what service provider they use. The fast pace of changing technology has impacted the mindset of people from being loyal to a product to bouncing between different service providers in search for the ‘latest stuff’. Evidence across different sectors are:

  • Telecoms are offering their customer to ‘try before you buy’. Chess, a telecoms company in Norway, offers their customers the flexibility to cancel their contract without any cancellation fees or reason.
  • Gyms are offering contract-less memberships where customers pay as they use the gyms (EasyGym, f4l etc.)

Streaming services are being offered for free in exchange for customers accepting marketing messages. Spotify’s ’freemium’ model enables customers to stay loyal without the commitment to pay, as they are in control and choose when to upgrade or downgrade their membership. The ‘freemium’ model is expanding into new industries and areas. Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster. It is commercially self-funded meaning there is a lot of advertising, which is why it is free for people to watch.

How can we remove the risks of purchase?

Given the increasingly commitment free consumer mindset, brands need to assess product risks their target consumers perceive and new ways to eliminate them.

Let people personalise their experience and express their values through transportation.

People care less about products and more about their social image

It used to be that consumers projected their identities through the logos they wore and the brands they used. Today, those things are less relevant.

47 percent of consumers now believe they’re best represented by what they post on social media, with only 11 percent saying it’s the car they drive. Our posts, pins, and retweets are the new signals of identification. This trend is being fueled by the continual emergence of new tools to help consumers capture or broadcast themselves.

How can the car help people to share their stories?

The industry is transforming to focus less on the product and more on the experience. This is an opportunity to rethink the positioning of the cars in people’s lives. Is the car in the cloud? How does the car connect people to a community? How can the car help people express themselves?

We need to create a more empathetic automobile industry

We are becoming more empathetic

Empathy generally only applies to those immediately around us – close friends and family. However, over time that sense of empathy has spread beyond the family to the village, the clan, the nation, and on to other races and sexes. Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker argues that the circle of empathy has expanded. We are becoming more empathetic to people’s unique needs. It’s spotted across several industries:

  • New York Fashion Week had an unofficial theme that was “inclusion,” and featured models with Downs Syndrome, amputees, and plus sized models.
  • Taboos were broken in the area of mental health. The New York bestseller lists from this year included books on mental health.
  • The number of workplaces allowing employees to bring their dogs to work increased, as well as restaurants open for pets.
  • Airlines are creating better pet onboard facilities (such as American Airlines’ pet cabin).
  • Also, Virgin is offering their employees to take as many holidays as they want.

How can the transportation industry be more inclusive?

It’s common in service design to explore ‘extreme users’ needs as these perspectives bring additional value to the research. Who are the extreme users within the transportation industry? How can we design better services to support their needs?

No one will own
(flying) cars in the future

Sharing is caring

Home ownership is the lowest in 30 years. People rent flats for longer and buy their first homes at an older age. Also, consumers who lease their cars is increasing. Depreciation risk has been amplified by the speed of technological change within the automotive industry. Cars are becoming smartphones on wheels, and consumers are increasingly sensitive to their new cars being out of date within a couple of years. Trends across the design industry evidence that companies are starting to offer rental, car sharing and leasing services rather than forcing people to buy the car in one lump sum. Rolls-Royce offers their customers to rent an engine where they get full service included to make sure it’s always in service.

Every product is a service waiting to happen

People don’t need to ‘own’ a car anymore, they rather want a partnership with a service provider, with the assurance that the product is always working 100%. What is the perceived service experience around cars today, and what will it be in the future?

Simplify the decision making process for car owners

We’re getting more stressed

The stress of growing up and taking on responsibilities has caused the word “adult” to become a verb as in: “Adulting is hard. I deserve some wine.” This desire to escape the daily stresses of everyday life, and an underlying resistance to growing up, helps explain the recent explosion in the adult colouring book market among other trends:

  • The top ten adult colouring books combined have sold at least 1.5 million copies in 2016. Part of the attraction is the soothing nature of the books, which creates “ flow” – a mental state of energised focus, deep involvement, and enjoyment created when fully immersed in an activity.
  • “Need a Mum” is a new service offering short-term, temporary mums to cook meals, give advice, iron shirts, and watch a movie with them when they don’t want to be alone.
  • There’s a growth in summer camps for adults offering live music, camp res, arts and crafts, talent shows, and more.

How can we reduce stress across different touchpoints?

Decision making can be stressful as it’s a big lump sum you have to put on the table, how can we empower people in their decisions at the point of purchase? How can we reduce the stress around maintenance or safety?

We are spending more time in the car. Make the most out of it.

Urban cities continue growing

The world is urbanising rapidly: Over 50% of us live in towns and cities. With 64% of journeys taking place in urban areas today and this proportion set to increase, there is enormous pressure to provide a transport infrastructure, which keeps business moving and creates places where human beings want to live.

With the growth of urban cities, people start commuting more now than before. Evidence of this is London, where most people live outside the city centre and the average commute is 74.2 minutes, one way.

In 2003 the average UK commute was 45 minutes, today it is 54 minutes. That compares with 70 minutes in Portugal, 80 minutes in Ivory Coast and a mere 23 minutes in Italy. The world average is about 40 minutes.

What does this mean for the transportation industry

How can we design services to make the most out of the time people spend in their car? How can we use technology to reduce the traffic congestion in urban cities without losing our customers?

Nudge healthy and safe behaviours on the road

Safety awareness

Department for Transport figures shows that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 492 accidents in Britain in 2014, including 21 that were fatal and 84 classed as serious. On a global level, 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving. Traffic accidents happen too often due to texting whilst driving which is why Britain decided to increase the penalties. Under new rules expected to come in next year, drivers will get double the penalty. If the driver offends twice they will be facing possible fines of up to £1,000 and at least a six-month driving ban.

Nudging healthy driving and behaviour

How can we increase the safety and reduce accidents on the road? How can we engage the drivers to drive responsibly? How can we protect the passengers and other people in traffic?

Will driverless cars make the road safe again?

The impact of driverless cars

Driverless cars will account for up to 75 percent of vehicles on the road by the year 2040 according to The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The roles are shifting: the driver will no longer be in control, technology and the car will. This shift means that the there will be opportunities for the driver, passenger, and others to spend their time more efficiently and there is an opportunity to make the roads safer.

  • Driverless cars promise safety because there’ll be no more texting or drunken driving. according to Research.Gov. This is making a great impact on drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
  • BMW predicts that cars will become a 2nd lounge with entertainment space, meaning that the world average commute time of 40 minutes (each way) can be spent more efficiently and conveniently.

Technology is changing the roles and responsibilities

What are the roles of the driver and passenger in the future of driverless cars? What will the time spent in the car look like? Will the car be our second home? Who are the new emerging actors in the transportation industry? Might more safety even mean no more insurance premiums?

Can we use technology and virtual reality to train people in driving?

Virtual showrooms & driving experiences

Virtual showrooms are booming with the VR/AR technology on the rise. It’s a great tool to bring people into the shop from practically anywhere. With the evolving technology, it will become cheaper and more accessible to people which means that there are bigger opportunities lying ahead, beyond showrooms.

  • With VR, interactivity will be increasingly important for people. Moving from a ‘passive’ role of watching TV or reading a newspaper, towards a future where we’ll be active in the experience and interacting with the content presented to us.
  • Virtual Reality has already been adapted in sports and used to train people in the more analytical and strategic activities, where they are not at risk of injury. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Rays are already using VR and AR systems to aid in training.

Exploring the role of VR/AR in an autonomous vehicle

What is the role of children in car dealerships, how can then be entertained whilst mum and dad look around new cars? How can we simulate the driving experience? How can we prompt responsible driving through the use of VR/AR? How can we increase drivers’ awareness of those around them (nudging empathy for passengers, cyclists, pedestrians etc.)?

Written by Ine Vassøy