From air conditioning and seat adjustment to upholstery: the options for personalizing vehicles are becoming increasingly diverse and the business of individualization is booming. Almost anything is possible - but which developments are also useful or even beneficial to the health and performance of the occupants? Scientists at the Fraunhofer IAO have been researching answers to this question with the non-profit scientific research foundation bq.Labs as part of the »Light Ride« innovation project within the Mass Personalization Performance Center.
The focus of research: personalization in the public mobility space
One of the goals of the Mass Personalization Performance Center is to optimize individual mobility through personalization and make it more sustainable. At the center of the research is the question: »What are the ideal environmental conditions for mobile people?« The focus here is on personalization in the public mobility space, e.g. public transport stops or vehicle interiors, or on route planning. In the »Light Ride« project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP are concentrating on health aspects in the interiors of so-called ride-hailing services, therefore mobility service vehicles such as Uber or Lyft, as well as in relation to autonomous vehicles with higher levels of automation.
Experimental user test in San Diego provides basis for further research
The researchers' vision is to use digital and immersive services - as an early starting market, particularly in the luxury segment - to transform the vehicle interior into a mental refueling station. So-called breathwork sessions, consciously guided and performed breathing exercises, supported by an immersive light experience, are intended to help reduce stress, promote the well-being of passengers and recharge them with performance-enhancing vital energy. The team is receiving support from Filip Husta from Fraunhofer IBP: »We are working intensively on lighting technology in buildings - transferring this experience and knowledge to the design of immersive vehicle interiors is very exciting and can enable a completely new passenger experience.« The Fraunhofer IAO research team conducted initial user tests together with bq.Labs in San Diego in November 2023. The vehicle prototype and the immersive breathing experience »PowerBreath« were provided by bq.Labs, while the technical interior equipment for the light experience visualizations, which were implemented at the Fraunhofer IAO's Mobility Innovation Lab, was brought along by the research team and installed directly on site. Data was collected by means of a survey before and after the experiment. In addition, the participants' health parameters were monitored during the experiment using a wearable device (wristband). At the same time, the research team gained further insights into the participants' behavior through interviews and observations of the experiment.
Innovation strategies in the context of the mobility transition
»Particularly with products and services that address such an emotional topic as mental health and peak performance, it is crucial to involve potential users early on in the development process,« explains Franziska Braun, who developed the lighting design in the vehicle interior. The challenge is to create a holistic and authentic experience in order to be able to realistically assess the acceptance of the innovation. »I believe that we succeeded very well with the prototype,« Braun sums up.
The study not only provided insights into the technical feasibility, but also shed light on the social and psychological aspects. »We have now created the basis for further research and development of innovation strategies in the field of mobility and personalized wellness,« says Sebastian Stegmüller, head of the »Mobility and Innovation Systems« research department at Fraunhofer IAO. He considers the concept to be very promising, both for the individual passenger experience and as an innovative service for companies in the mobility sector. Sebastian Schelper, founder of the scientific research foundation bq.Labs, has gained the insight from over two decades of pioneering work in the premium car industry that the success of mobility innovations depends on developing holistic solutions at the interface of technology, society and individual performance enhancement that resonate with the user. The research cooperation between Fraunhofer IAO and bq.Labs serves to test and validate this »solution-market resonance« as early as possible with users in a realistic environment and research work in the laboratory.