For my master's graduate semester, I joined the Advanced Digital Design (DDA) team at Mercedes-Benz. Here I continued to work on my graduation project Scribble. Scribble explores a novel interaction, piloting a semi-autonomous vehicle through traffic by means of a haptic drawing-based interface. Supported by the DDA team and other Daimler resources, I was able to progressively develop my prototype and managed to validate the concept in a simulated user study.

Next to working on my master thesis, I contributed to hardware and software prototyping aimed at design topics such as: Interactive materials, automated driving assistance graphics, and Kinect based tracking exploration

Company: Daimler AG
Collaboration: Mercedes-Benz R&D, Advanced Digital Design
Special thanks to Zane Amiralis

Sindelfingen, Germany
Jul - Dec 2017

Scribble. your way through traffic

The simulation study tried to identify the positive and negative effects of engaging Scribble. The simulation was equipped with conventional adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane keeping assistance, and a haptic interface named Scribble that let the driver draw a path which pilots the automobile. The simulated drive was exclusive to highway driving and had various events that trigger user interaction. In the study the driver does not drive the vehicle, but instead is responsible for higher level decision making and expressing his intentions through stroke gestures visualized on a screen. To identify the potential of Scribble’s interaction, the study focusses on the user experience in order to get a better understanding of the details that make or break this interaction.

The drive consisted of a straight highway with three lanes. The length of the simulation was 35 km and lasted around 20 minutes. The drive included six events that provoked interaction with Scribble such as: road obstructions, traffic jams, bad drivers, and accidents. The simulation was built from the ground up in Unity 3D to suit the Scribble prototype.

A total of 12 participants completed the study, of which 6 were female and 6 male. The average age of the participant group was 32, the youngest being 23 and the oldest 59. All participants were recruited from the Mercedes-Benz Research & Development factory plant in Sindelfingen, Germany and were employed by Daimler AG. The participants were all in the possession of a driver’s license and spoke English during the experiment. All participants had occasional access to cars equipped with driver assistance systems.

Conclusively, drawing works well using finger gestures. Traffic events during which the vehicle is not moving are easier to solve and plan around than dynamic events in which the vehicle is in motion, especially in conjunction with other traffic. Additionally, some participants preferred indicating their decisions by loosely pointing at a desired location over drawing lines.

Moreover, Scribble was experienced as playful and was compared to a video game. The interaction was also described as natural and logical. The visualization and motion were traceable; the information of where the vehicle is currently and where it is heading was clear. There seemed to be a clear division of tasks where the driver plans a route and the vehicle executes this plan. Regular driving requires the driver to plan and execute simultaneously which requires more effort.

The Team

The Advanced Digital Design team consists of talented individuals who design future transport concepts for Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG. They are a part of Daimler's Research & Development and focus on advanced series and user experience design, show car design, experimenting with advanced tools, and developing applications for cutting-edge technology. The team is young and has a start-up feel while profiting from the benefits of being in a large company like Daimler. The team has worked on Show cars such as the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van, Concept EQ, and Smart vision EQ fortwo. They collaborate with peer design teams in Europe, USA, and China.

It has been a fruitful experience and a sincere honor to work with the people at DDA. The level of creativity and talent was truly inspiring and helped me to position myself better as a designer. Thanks to the team I was able to improve my own design and build a simulation environment from scratch. Collaborating with Mercedes-Benz has made me push myself to retrieve results that normally would be out of reach for a regular graduate student. Hence I'm deeply grateful for my time in Stuttgart and looking confident towards my next challenge.