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2018-11-01

A human approach to designing future cities and intelligent cars

The arrival of autonomous vehicles in our society will significantly change the way we travel. But should we, and our cities, adapt to new urban mobility or can technology be tailored for us? A new Drive Sweden project hosted by Halmstad University combines experimental prototyping and testing of intelligent services for urban development and autonomous vehicles, with participatory and human centred research. The goal is to establish new ways of developing modern vehicles and smart cities for a sustainable social environment.

It is very likely that semi-autonomous intelligent vehicles will drive on our streets in the near future. This offers new opportunities for the integration of intelligent vehicles into a growing digital urban service economy and infrastructure. But to be sustainable, a shift is needed in the way that smart city technologies are designed.

”We need to design with rather than for the users, and we need research models that address this shift”, says Vaike Fors, Associate Professor in Pedagogy at Halmstad University.

Project leaders

The project leaders are gathered during the first out of four workshops. From the left: Vaike Fors, Associate Professor at Halmstad University, Susanne Duval, strategic infrastructure planner at Helsingborg City, Patrik Palo, Senior UX strategy advisor at Volvo Cars and Suzanne Andersson, strategic infrastructure planner at Gothenburg City.

­New technology and innovation can lead to hope, but also anxiety. Technology is often expected to create improvements that benefit society, individuals, business and government. However, ethnographic research has shown that people do not always use technology as intended. This is often due to the fact that people use technology as part of their everyday life habits and routines, rather than by rational decision-making. One example of this is the way people use cars.

Collaboration across disciplines for a human centred development

Vaike Fors is leading the design ethnographic project Co-designing future smart urban mobility services—a human approach (AHA), that brings together technology designers, urban planners, and social researchers. As part of the project, the different stakeholders meet to share their perspectives so that together they can tackle future challenges within urban planning and the development of autonomous cars. The project is part of Drive Sweden, a Strategic Innovation Program funded by VINNOVA (the Swedish Innovation Agency), the Swedish Research Council Formas and the Swedish Energy Agency.

”In the AHA project, we use research results from previous ethnographic studies of how citizens perceive and use their cars and other means of transport. We connect this to urban planning and technology development with a focus on how people live their everyday lives”, says Vaike Fors.

Workshop

As part of the project, the different stakeholders meet during workshops to share their perspectives so that together they can tackle future challenges within urban planning and the development of autonomous cars.

Workshop model for understanding future commuting

Based on the ethnographic findings and the stakeholders’ questions, the research team has created different materials to be used to fuel the discussions in the project workshops, for example insight cards and commuting routine maps.

The first out of four workshops took place at Halmstad University in October. Car designers from Volvo, urban planners from Helsingborg and Gothenburg, and social researchers in the project team gathered to identify specific points of interest in the everyday commuting routines. The workshop lead to a collection of ideas of how these routines can be addressed for an increase the value for cities and their citizens as well as business actors. These ideas will in the next stage be developed further in workshops organised in the partner cities.

Sarah Pink, Professor of Design and Emerging Technologies at Monash University, Australia, who is an International Guest Professor at Halmstad University and involved in the AHA project, told us:

”Through the workshop, people’s everyday life is brought into city development, through the ethnographic research results. It’s a fantastic way to bring together different stakeholders and discuss the aspect of commuting.”

The goal of the project is to establish a way of collaborating to approach societal challenges from a user-centered service design perspective. The research results will be made transferrable and scalable so they can be shared globally.

Sarah Pink

Sarah Pink, Professor of Design and Emerging Technologies at Monash University, Australia, and an International Guest Professor at Halmstad University in discussions with Kaspar Raats, Volvo Cars industrial PhD student in Informatics at Halmstad University.

About the AHA research project

Co-designing future smart urban mobility services—a human approach (AHA) is a Drive Sweden project. Drive Sweden is a Strategic Innovation Program funded by VINNOVA (the Swedish Innovation Agency), the Swedish Research Council Formas and the Swedish Energy Agency. AHA is a proof-of-concept project to tailor and demonstrate a design ethnographic methodology that combines experimental prototyping and testing of intelligent services for urban development and autonomous vehicles, with participatory and human centred research. As part of the project, four workshops with technology designers, urban planners, citizens and social researchers are organised. The first workshop took place in October, the second and third workshops will take place in February and the fourth in April/May. The project will end with a round table discussion within the Drive Sweden outreach program. The project runs between April 2018 and June 2019.

The part of the project team that is based at the Department of Intelligent Systems and Digital Design at the School of Information Technology, Halmstad University includes:

  • Robert Broström, Adjunct Professor from Volvo Cars
  • Rachel Charlotte Smith, Guest researcher from Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Vaike Fors, Associate Professor, Halmstad University
  • Mareike Glöss, Post Doc, Halmstad University
  • Tomas Lindgren, Volvo Cars industrial PhD student in Informatics at Halmstad University
  • Jesper Lund, Assistant Professor, Halmstad University
  • Katalin Osz, Post Doc, Halmstad University/ Volvo Cars
  • Sarah Pink, Guest Professor from Monash University, Australia
  • Kaspar Raats, Volvo Cars industrial PhD student in Informatics at Halmstad University

Project leaders:

  • Suzanne Andersson, strategic infrastructure planner, Gothenburg City
  • Susanne Duval, strategic infrastructure planner, Helsingborg City
  • Vaike Fors, Associate Professor, Halmstad University
  • Patrik Palo, Senior UX strategy advisor, Volvo Cars

Text: LOUISE WANDEL

Photo: EMELY NIEMI JONSSON

insight cards

This deck of insight cards is one result of the ethnographic studies of how citizens perceive and use their cars and other means of transport. The cards are used in the project workshops to bring people’s everyday life into urban planning and technology development.

We need to design with rather than for the users, and we need research models that address this shift.

– Vaike Fors, Associate Professor in Pedagogy at Halmstad University.

Publications on the subject

Osz, K., Raats, K., Fors, V., Pink, S. & Lindgren, T. (2018). Combining WOz testing and ride along video ethnographies: advancing methodologies for Autonomous Driving car development for mixed traffic environments. Accepted paper for the OzCHI2018, 5th-7th December, 2018, Melbourne Australia.

Lindgren, T., Fors, V., Pink, S., Bergquist, M., & Berg, M. (2018). On the route to Anticipated Car UX. NordiCHI conference, October 1-3, 2018, Oslo, Norway.

Pink, S., V. Fors and M. Glöss (2018) The contingent futures of the mobile present: beyond automation as innovationexternal link, Mobilities. 2018.

Pink, S., Fors, V., Glöss, M. (2017). Automated futures and the mobile present: In-car video ethnographies. Ethnography.

Updated 2018-11-01