Everyday experiences in focus when developing digitalised cars of the future

To create sustainable mobility solutions in the future, you need to understand how people think about digitalised cars. In his dissertation, Thomas Lindgren, who is an industrial PhD student in Informatics and uses Design Ethnography as methodology, emphasizes that user experiences can be filled with hopes and fears. It affects people’s choices and the development of new products and services.

A person stands infront of a digital car in a room – it looks like a hologram.

New technology has given us digitalised cars that are connected, automated and intelligent. Today, it is possible to create a digitalised car that is a prototype of your future car in digital programmes and then share it on various social media channels to discuss it and exchange experiences with others. This can be done before you have tested a physical car.

“We experience cars in so many more ways than just sitting in them. The line between how to experience a car physically and digitally is being blurred. The digital and electrified car is constantly in contact with, for example, your smartphone or your household's energy system, which changes expectations and hopes for what a future car is and does”, says Thomas Lindgren.

Digitalised cars evoke emotions

In his PhD thesis, Thomas Lindgren has studied people's experiences of expectations and fears about digitalised cars and how this is part of the user experience and people's choices. This is called “Digital Anticipatory User Experience” (DAUX). Expectations can, for example, be to expect that when ordering a modern digitalised car that it will continue to develop, offer new and better functions over time, and adapt to future individual needs like offering a completely self-driving function or be used in a car sharing service in a future update or service. Fears can, for example, be that you are afraid that the technology will become too old quickly and that your investment will be useless, which makes you less motivated to follow trends.

“This understanding is important when designing the sustainable mobility solutions of the future. Design Ethnography shows people’s hopes and experiences of how the digital car has become part of their everyday life. It provides insights that can be used in development processes”, says Thomas Lindgren, who has done his research together with Volvo Cars, in order to develop future products and services within sustainable mobility with a people-centric perspective.

A man stands infront of a light background and looks into the camera. A plant is seen in the foreground.

Thomas Lindgren will defend his dissertation on May 20, and works at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University.

Create solutions together

The digitalised car is constantly changing through new updates, functions, software and intelligent algorithms that learn from the users and change the conditions for the experience of the car. In addition, digitalisation enables easy sharing in social environments, which also affects people’s experiences of a car. After studying discussions in online forums and following people in their everyday lives, Thomas Lindgren believes that the digitized car enables creativity between people. This, in turn, creates good conditions for designing new services and products.

“The experience of hopes or fears about the future, in both the short and long term, creates a strong emotional feeling in the form of drive or resilience. By understanding how people's hopes for digitalised cars arise and develop, you can use their driving forces to create more sustainable mobility solutions together with them instead of for them”, says Thomas Lindgren and continues:

“Through Design Ethnography, you discover not only how people interact with new technology in their lives and what is important to them, but also new values and areas of use.”

The relationship between humans and technology

New technology can create both new opportunities and problems that were not foreseen from the beginning. By understanding people's expectations and seeing how they interact with technology, you can develop solutions that fit into everyday life instead of starting from a well-defined problem and solving it with advanced technology without any relationship to the users.

“The fact that today's digitized and rapidly changing products and services are deeply integrated into our everyday lives requires a different approach to understanding the user experience. It is not enough to just look at the experience of the interface between man and technology. We must include the experience of the relationships created and changed between people and technologies”, says Thomas Lindgren.

Text: Anna-Frida Agardson
Photos: iStock and Anna-Frida Agardson

About the PhD defence

The PhD defence will take place on May 20 at 13:15 in Bærtling, Visionen, Halmstad University. It will also be streamed through Zoom: External link.

Thesis title: “Recharging Future Mobility: Understanding Digital Anticipatory UX through Car Ethnographies” External link.

  • Opponent: Professor Marc Hassenzahl, Professor, University of Siegen
  • Main supervisor: Vaike Fors, Professor, Halmstad University
  • Co-supervisors: Magnus Bergquist, Professor, Halmstad University and Martin Berg, Professor, Malmö University
  • Industrial supervisor: Robert Broström, Senior Technical Leader UX, Volvo Cars

Collaboration partners

Thomas Lindgren’s research has been done mainly in collaboration with Halmstad University and Volvo Cars.

In two VINNOVA financed projects he has also collaborated with RISE, Vattenfall, Kraftringen and SkelleftåKraft, among others.

  • RELEVANT – Realize Efficient Charging of Electric Cars (EVs) with User-Centered Smart Technology is about understanding expectations regarding rechargeable cars and developing smart home charging together with users.
  • HEAD – Human Expectations and Experiences of Autonomous Driving was about understanding people’s expectations and experiences of self-driving cars.