For passengers in our cars, especially in the early days of self-driving cars, we know there may be some apprehension for passengers at being in an autonomous vehicle. This will likely grow further when there is no safety driver present. In order to help alleviate some of the concerns, we felt it was important for people to know that yes, the car sees that person stepping out, yes it sees that big truck in front, etc.
The important aspects for this design were to represent this information in a way which clearly showed everything the car saw, but did so in a friendly reassuring way, instead of an overly technical and intimidating way. That required finding a balance between over simplification and showing every technical element perceived.
This design concept became US Patent US010773732
A passenger screen view already existed when I joined the company (the non-soothing engineering-oriented capture below). I led the redesign from where it was then to where it is today, and even beyond, to the next version not yet implemented (which I cannot show here therefore). I worked with the engineering team to iteratively improve the visualization, use natural colors, and find the right balance of LIDAR and identification information shown. I also worked with my excellent visual designer Scott Rossi for the controls and map display.
I also repeatedly rode in the car with our passengers in Texas and usability subjects in California to get their input on the screen -- what they found clear and not clear, and what they would want to see there, iterating the design based on that input.
Examples from Throughout Project:
Original Screen When I Joined:
Current Screen (photographed live in car):
We provide both a panoramic camera view with augmentation showing our identification of cars (blue), pedestrians and bicyclists (yellowish green), and other objects, and below that a constructed view of exactly what the LIDAR sees. Together they form a transition from the real world to the world the car sees, and the passengers can focus on either, or typically both.
This display can thereby also support people's natural curiosity and wonder at the technology and provide an entertaining experience if done well. So to further that process, we included multiple viewing angles, from directly behind the car to above the car to the view they would see from the driver's seat. The passenger can even tap to see behind the car instead, like a rear-view mirror.
We also included a map view so people could see where they are, and how far they are on the route.
Those riding in our car now often comment that they really liked seeing our visualization of what the car sees and identifies, matching the comments I heard in usability testing when riding along with passengers then.
Moreover, a full 98% of the people say they "felt safe" on the ride, and it is my hope that this helped contribute to that feeling.