AI that advocates
electric cars

Future Mobility is a public installation that persuades
drivers to switch to electric through personalisation.

Defining the problem

With the infrastructure and government grants for electric cars at an all-time high, it’s never been a better time to buy an electric car. Yet the uptake of switching to electric has been slow in the UK when compared with other countries such as Scandinavia.

We researched the use of data visualisation as a way of translating spreadsheets of car statistics to answer the question: how can drivers be persuaded to make the switch in a way that’s meaningful to them individually?

Explaining quickly sketched ideas

Interviewing drivers

To gauge the current climate, we asked petrol and diesel drivers about their views on electric cars. Many were misinformed or had outdated information about the infrastructure in their local area, such as charging stations. Most stated that the upfront investment, even with government grants, was too high.

When asking electric car drivers what made them switch, most said environmental concerns and running costs, while others simply drove company vehicles that were provided.

Electric car charging station

Gathering insights

With most drivers not having a clear outline of the costs of owning and running an electric car, we needed to find a way of conveying those details as a concise but memorable user experience.

Location for this physical installation was key to targeting the right group. Petrol stations were an obvious choice as people would be most aware of fuel costs each time they fill up. Parking was also a strong case as many councils have allowed free parking for electric cars.

Observing drivers at a petrol station

User personas

Based on the range of car drivers most likely to switch (30-40-year-olds), we created several personas.

We made sure we followed these personas, based on our interviews, to ensure we designed for the whole spectrum of our target audience which presented mixed assumptions about electric cars, personality traits and incomes.

Anna Wilson persona profile

User flows

Scenarios were designed with different onboarding routes using several locations to fit with our proposed settings. While the majority didn’t convert into sales, the experience was engaging enough to inform more drivers about the benefits of switching.

The experience encouraged participants to share their findings with family and friends by comparing results, therefore extending the reach of the installation.

Paul Sykes journey map

Prototyping

We sketched out ways of visualising data in persuasive ways. Through iteration, we decided to use the participant’s car so that they could relate directly to the comparison.

We collected car data from the DVLA, using Python and Processing to parse the information and calculate a tailored response. We created the program from scratch using a thermal receipt printer as the output. This gave drivers a familiar product from a new experience.

3D printing the head

Physical forms

Working with product designers, a body for the machine was produced. Choosing urban materials such as concrete allows the machine to blend in, creating surprise when triggered by motion. This unexpected interaction increases initial engagement as most people would walk past unremarkable products that only function when prompted.

We added a key for control to add familiarity for drivers with responsive LEDs to create a futuristic feel.

Fitting components in the 3D printed head

User testing

We conducted user testing throughout the prototyping stage, from cardboard to electronic-only set ups. We found and solved many problems through rubber-ducking.

We used voice recognition for the user input, which provided the smoothest experience. Problems included drivers stating their car as ‘Mini Cooper’ instead of ‘Mini Cooper One’. We adapted the database to allow for partial naming of makes and models.

Testing the voice recognition

Solution

A public installation that encourages drivers to switch to electric cars through personalised comparison. Asking for your name then your car make and model, the machine will grab data specific to your car such as fuel efficiency and engine size. Using an example route, it calculates estimated costs compared to a Nissan Leaf. Also grabbing live data for fuel costs and air quality added an additional layer of realism.

Final product with receipt output
User receiving result

Printing the results

Machine in situ at petrol station

In context at a petrol station

Exhibition

Our installation was displayed in an exhibition called ‘Atelier Commuter’. It received lots of interest, visitors enjoying being able to take away a physical copy of the result to compare with their friends.

With such a high level of engagement we looked into future possibilities of collaborating with companies to host our product in their lobbies to increase uptake in their employee electric car schemes.

Display at the Atelier Commuter exhibition