The rising of wildlife accidents, with its economic and social impact, calls for a design thinking approach that investigates this matter from a variety of lenses.
Through an investigation of automobile human-machine-interfaces, neuroscience and interaction design, this project aims at gaining insights into the causes of wildlife accidents and the behaviors of both the drivers and animals, with the ultimate goal of evaluating current solutions and give roots to new potential strategies that could prevent such accidents.
Drawing on a user-centred framework, the research was carries out getting in touch with many experts as well as conducting quantitative and wualitative analysis through user studies and usability test.
The final creation of a multi-sensory experience inside the vehicle, has the goal to subconsciously suggest the driver a quick and natural reaction to the dangerous situation. Stunning are the results of the final simulation, implemented at Honda R&D Europe, Germany.
PROLONGING THE REACTION TIME
The speed of the vehicle is among the main reasons why drivers fail to prevent a crash. A slower speed would not only mean that the driver is more mentally alert and therefore able to brake faster if needed it would also empathize with the wildlife world, in which animals have no experience with things moving faster than 70 km/h. This lack of previous experience prevents the animals to accurately calculate the timing for crossing the roads and hence prevents it from recognizing the danger of a fast-moving approaching vehicle. While it wouldn’t be feasible to force drivers to slow down on the entire road, the concept aims at giving the driver a meaningful warning only when needed.
The goal is to awake the driver’s awareness about the presence of animals surrounding the roads, as they are driving, by combining warning signals inside the vehicle and alerting the driver with enough time for them to react, slow down or slowly hitting the brakes if necessary. By calculating the animal and vehicle’s speed, timing will be adaptive to each use case scenario and each different situation.
“It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters”
A visualization of the animal crossing on the Head-Up-Display (HUD) will have the goal to “see the animal coming” before actually seeing the animal in front of the vehicle. This will add on to the other warnings, for a prolonged time to react, as well as providing a natural reaction to the sight of a ‘living been’.
SUBCONSCIOUS, FASTER & EMOTIONAL REACTION
When we are inside a vehicle, many of our senses are ‘fenced’ within the solid body of the vehicle. We loose our ability to smell, to properly hear and to make use of our peripheral view. In the case of an accident with wildlife, we are therefore not able to be prepared or to predict the consequences of the accident. If we were driving our bike or walking inside a forest, we would probably not run the risk of getting involved in a wildlife-related accident ourselves, as both us and the animal would be connected to their natural sensory system, and therefore be able to predict the encountering in advance or take appropriate measures.
The concept has the goal to mediate between the vehicle and the driver, by bringing that natural instinct back to the driver, as to stimulate an intuitive reaction, while being inside a solid vehicle. The warning should create a connection between different sensory levels and develop a quick, although subconscious reaction, to the dangerous situation. The driver will then be feeling like having the need for driving slower and paying additional attention to the road. This will start in their head the process for perceptual prediction, scanning for actions to be taken or emotions to be felt in the case of a sudden dangerous situation. The warning will be a combination of a physical, acoustic and visual feedback. The combination of all three sensory levels has the scope to elaborate a new pattern, like an attitude of the vehicle while responding to dangerous situations. In future scenarios, the driver will then be able to recognize the patterns and elaborate a mental model that will eventually recur in their head, and will be recalled and mirrored in future similar situations.
THE POWER OF TRUST
An alert reaction is key for succeeding in taking action. At night, when most accidents with wildlife happen, two factors will mostly obstruct the awareness and alertness of the driver: visibility and alertness. Due to the scars daylight or darkness, the visibility is very poor, moreover, due to the time of the day, the concentration of the driver becomes less, together with their ability to stay awake and full alert.
The concept aims at creating an enhanced reality through an intuitive interface, in order to create a direct experience and a trustable system.
“He (Herbie) becomes like its owner and gives him what he needs”
(“The Love Bug”, 1997)
The trust will be also achieved by creating a reliable feedback for the driver, that will only be active in dangerous situations. Contrary to road signs, where the warning is not related to an immediate need, the concept aims to create a bond of trust between the vehicle and the driver, by giving the driver a specific information about the position of the wild animals and the related level of danger for the vehicle, given its speed and distance to the approaching animal.
THE NEED FOR PHYSICAL CONNECTION
Driving a car is an interesting situation, because it is about two intelligent things 97 that need to be working in coordination. It is a bit like driving a horse. The horse is intelligent, knows what it has to do, he understands what it’s going on and completely move by itself. The driver is intelligent, knows where he wants to go and what he wants to do. When they work together, there’s a beautiful symbiosis between a human and an animal. A similar example of beautiful symbiosis is the one of a sport car and its professional driver. The experience that bonds together the two, makes it easy for them to collaborate and “understand” each others. As long as the rider is in tune with the horse, the action of riding it will be smooth and easy. As Don Norman describes it (“The Design of Future Things”, 2007), driving a car, as any other process of the things we do, involves 3 different levels: the visceral, the behavioral and the reflective. While the car undertakes the visceral level, the behavioral level is shared between the driver and car and the reflective level should be taken by the driver.
The behavioral level comprehends all those things we are taught when learning to drive, this includes moving pedals, holding the steering wheel, changing gear, or watching to the front. The reflective part is the one who tells the driver which action to take after or before something happens. Through the reflective process, the driver analyses situations, calculates in their mind the most meaningful action to take and decides what to do. There is a need to re-attach these feelings and senses in the experience of driving a car. In this way, the driver would re-attach its natural instinct of “feeling the moment” and making decisions based on “gut feeling”, acting more consciously while taking the appropriate measures.
The concept aims to achieve this beautiful symbiosis through an intimate and physical connection with the vehicle, feeling how the car ‘is feeling’ as a response to the environment.
An interactive seatbelt is implemented in this process of proprioception. The slow pulling of the seatbelt will translate in subconscious feedback through a physical connection between the vehicle and the driver. This will suggest to the driver to slow down and re-direct their eyes to the road while transmitting the feeling for a more needed awareness and a physical preparation for an immediate reaction.