How might we help people better connect with their cities in self-driving cars?

Futures of Autonomous Vehicles

Using human-centered design to unlock people’s desired futures of self-driving cars


Explore the possibilities of the autonomous “cars as a third space” beteween home and work. Define a concept for the future of FCA autonomous vehicle’s user expereince.

A concept for autonomous cars as a social space. An exhaustive exploration of futures by particapatory design methods. New research methods for FCA’s UX team.


Fiat Chrystler Automotive


2.5 Months

My Team

Supawat Vitoorapakorn
Ethan Ye

My Role

UX Design & Research
Generative Research
Storyboarding & Video


It's 2030.
How might we re-connect people with the cities they live in?

When cars become self-driving, are people still just going to be on their phones?

Most autonomous car concepts, from Ikea to Volvo, focus on giving time back to the user. In doing so, the user can completely tune out from their commute and become out of touch with their city. With everyone busy working, sleeping, and watching more TV, who would enjoy their journey looking out the window?

Concept Overview: CityMoji

Value Proposition


Data driven understanding of  neighborhood and improved urban planning.


Citizens benefits from improved city planning and thriving local businessses.


Data helps business spot new trends and oppurtunities.

Service Touchpoints

Interior mock up of side panel UI and main dashboard in a car environment.

Animoji Story & Ambient Display

User will be able to interact with story emojis by tapping on them ti hear a more in-depth story, Story will be in the form of animoji recordings inputted by previous riders. User can also choose to explore the location by adding it to the trip stops.

Interior mock up of side panel UI and main dashboard in a car environment.

Crowdsourced Emotions & Stories

Supported by ride-hailing companies, Citymoji will first collect data during people’s daily rides. After sufficient data is collected, the city exploration feature will be supported for riders to learn more about the neighborhoods and connect. At the same time, Citymoji will also provide paid analytic tools for government or businesses to process the data.

Interior mock up of side panel UI and main dashboard in a car environment.

Exploratory Research

Contextual research and interview with 5 other participants while they’re driving and riding. (GIF)

Research Question

“What is your favorite memory of being in a car and why is your car the way it is?”

To get the project grounded fast, I approached 5 people randomly in the parking lot to take a picture of their car interior with the general question of “What is their favorite memory of being in a car, and why is their car the way it is?”


To focus our research around the car as a social space.

Most people responded by an anedote of an important conversation they’ve shared in the car. We decided to focus on how the car space can act as social third space, and conducted an in-depth interview five additional additional participants while they’re driving or riding in the own vehicle.

Value Proposition

Mom with kids

“I have 3 kids and I really wish I can pay full attention to them in my car instead of driving. ”

Ski Trip Gang

“We try to have a good time in our car together. Good conversations with a lot of jokes.”

Packed for the weekend

“All about being in a space with friends and going to an activity that is also shared with friends.”

Affinity diagram summarizing the insights gained from 5 pariticpants

Undesrstanding “Connectedness”

Contextual research and interview with 5 other participants while they’re driving and riding. (GIF)

Research Question

When do people feel most "connected" and why?

Because we're focused on designing an experience around the car as a social space, we decided to deepen our understanding of what it means to be connected.


There are different ways of feeling "connected" such as to: oneself,  friends, colleagues, etc.

The question was perhaps a bit too broad, but it demonstrated to us there are many different ways of feeling connected.

Above: Raw data sample of participants day and when they feel most connected.

Synthesised Information

Say, Do, Make.

There’s a limit to what we can learn from observing people saying and doing. Sometime to undestand futures we have to make them together.

Drawing “connected-ness”

Generative research with a funny participant

Research Question

What does connecting with others look like in a moving space for you?

The car as a social space for connecting others is an opportunity that that previous concepts have yet to explore.


Scaffolded Think-a-loud Drawings

We ask participants to do a think aloud as they visualise what this space might look like. Various underlays were used as scaffolds to help some participants overcome their fear of drawing.


Many people have a strong desire to connect with the cities they live in during their commute. Unfortunately the affordances of today's cars do not allow that.

The car is a third space between home and work that moves within a city. Non-car commuters who enjoy their commute in and out of the city because it allows a moment to watch and reconnect passively with others who share the city. Unfortunately, drivers operating a caged heavy machinery at high speeds does not allow for such experience.

Montage of participant drawing with

Contextual research and interview with 5 other participants while they’re driving and riding. (GIF)

Co-Designing “connected-ness”


Vlogging with 1:10 Scale Modeling

We inviteed participants to design a moving space and its environment with foam core car and wooden blocks.  Participant were ask to think out loud during their design process and describe the space they designed after they finish by “vlogging” about it. Lastly, particpants were asked to to take a picture of their concept that best represents it and give it a name.

Concepts named and photographed from the angle to best represent it by the participants

An engineering student “vlogging” her think alouds for her autonomous vehicle concept to help feel “connected”.


Many people want to use their commute as time to connect with their city. Unfortunately the affordances of today's cars do not allow that.

Major themes we discovered during our research.

Concept Generation

Ideation session

Storyboarding and Speed-dating

Ideation from Analytical Research

Through out the whole project and even during research, we were also generating concepts in parrarel.  We did so for many reasons: 1) to use design as a form research, 2) to quickly translate and save research insights into a visual future, and 3) to push the boundaries of of our participants’ imagination. Sometimes, when asked to design their prefered future for autonomous vehicles particpants simply repeated an existing concepts they’ve seen elsewhere.

Sample Storyboards

Ideation from Analytical Research

Ideation from Generative Research

Ideation from Generative Research

Concept Evaluation

Generative research with a funny participant

Speed dating and think alouds

Which concepts would like to see happen most?

We evlauated the concept by asking our participants to think aloud while sorting the storyboards in order of their preferences. Afterwards, we quantitatively and qualitatively assess each concept based on their controversialness. And lastly, with close consultation with our client we deicded to select concepts that would require us to a take genuine risk as to not repeat already existing concepts by IDEO or Ikea.

Concepts we’ve synthesized from our research

Quantitatively understanding our concepts through sorting and ranking


Take risks and be different.

From IDEO to Ikea, there are a million autonomous vehicle concept out there. With close consultation with the client, we decided to take a risk explore concepts that we haven’t yet seen from our research.

Final Concept

Driving through Local Social Media

Habbits are difficult to break, but easier to evolve

During the down time of most commute, people are using this time to connect and catch-up via social media. Though social media can helps us connect with people anywhere on Earth, rarely is it used to increase one’s connection with one’s locality. In an effort to help people better connect with their city,  we’re evolving people’s habbit by transforming the autonomous ride into a local feed.

Production & Collaborative Storyboarding

A collaborative storyboarding session blending stickynotes with Figma and CAD renderings

1:1 Scale Mock Up

In order to communicate our concept, we prototyped in the supporting interactions. Our interaction is based loosely on the current UI of the main screens of Tesla cars.

Mocking up our in car interaction at 1:1 scale

A screen inside a Tesla

Our empty future car CAD model

Digital Production

A comination of 2D and 3D tools was used to to create the final concept video. I took a lot of pride in creating the script and assets for this video while keeping the art direction consistent.

Linda working on her computer just like us


Use "Play" in Research

Because we made our research fun to "play" with, people had fun and were much more engaged. Additionally, it was so much easier to recruit people because everyone wanted to have fun!

Take Risks and Explore

Especially when you're working with with future concepts its easy to start replicating existing concepts without learning much of anything new. Without proper exploration we would not have arrived at our final concept.

Next Workshop: Materialising Mental Health