With increasing levels of traffic all around the world, more fuel is being consumed and more damage is caused to the environment. Commuters are spending increasing amounts of time in their vehicles as a result of the recent suburbanization process, which in turn also leads to an increased probability for road accidents. Especially considering that up to 90% of accidents occur due to a human error. While many in-vehicle systems already exist along with governmental regulations to encourage safety and energy saving, it is at the consumer behavior level that substantial change can be achieved. User research showed that driving behavior could be positively influenced with as simple solution as real-time feedback on the driver’s performance.
In this project we explored how we can help car drivers to be more fuel-efficient by providing them with persuasive feedback on their driving. We aimed to develop a safe add-on solution that can be used in any existing car. With the technology being based on smartphone sensors, we also wanted to counter the potential safety problems that using a smartphone can introduce (such as operating the device to make or answer phone calls, or play music).
The Smart Steering Wheel Cover is an in-vehicle system designed to enhance driving experiences to be safer and more efficient. It collects data from the driver’s smartphone accelerometer to detect how fast the driver is accelerating and braking. The smoothness of the driving correlates with fuel economy: the less aggressive is the driver’s behavior, the less fuel the vehicle consumes. The feedback is communicated to the driver in terms of vibration as warning of poor behavior and gradual change of light to motivate constant fuel-efficient behavior. The physical buttons embedded in the steering wheel cover allow the driver to control their phones straight from the steering wheel and allow being efficient without having to compromise safety.
Iterative user-testing of prototypes emphasized the proactive nature of the design to prevent poor driving as opposed to reacting to it. The direct contact of the steering wheel with the driver led to direct impact on their behavior. Users were motivated to maintain the full green circle and to analyze their results in comparison with others.
The Smart Steering Wheel Cover should win in the category “Optimizing”, because it is designed to optimize the daily activity of driving. The design allows the driver to learn from driving behavior via simple interaction, in order to optimize efficiency and promote positive action using gamification rewards. The Smart Steering Wheel Cover pushes back the complexity of feedback by providing simple ambient and haptic persuasive feedback without visual demand. All to deliver better driving experiences for the driver and others.
The core concept behind the design is to encourage small changes into driving behavior to in order to save on fuel efficiency and decrease personal risk. With the design of the Smart Steering Wheel Cover we hope to contribute to the world in a small way by addressing positive behavior change on an individual level.