Driving experience of the future: new spaces and potential

Mobility Experience and Technology Labs
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Fraunhofer IAO and McKinsey publish study in the context of “Mobility Experience and Technology Lab”

In ten years’ time, automotive interiors will have little in common with what we see inside cars today. Fraunhofer IAO and McKinsey have set out to investigate emerging concepts for interiors, design, services and personal transportation in the new “Mobility Experience and Technology Lab“ (MXT Lab). These researchers aim to plumb the potential of innovations that create value for both users and vendors.

Moreover, the prospect of autonomous driving gives rise to fundamental questions such as the extent of the driver’s control of the vehicle and what additional in-car functions will be required. Freed of the need to keep their eyes on the road by software assistants and other onboard technologies, drivers could use the time spent in their vehicle to work, play games, shop or engage in other pursuits, for example, learn a foreign language. With these prospects looming large, it is all the more important to understand, shape and optimize tomorrow’s automotive experience. The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility in Stuttgart set up the “Mobility Experience and Technology Lab“ (MXT Lab) to look into the potential for innovation that this development offers to business enterprises, which are welcome to join this alliance. Automakers and suppliers can convene in roundtables to contribute their ideas to the Lab and address the emerging challenges and opportunities of a fully connected and increasingly automated future. The idea is to build an ecosystem over the next few years in which players from a wide range of industries can conduct joint research into tomorrow’s mobility experience. One of the goals of this first study was to determine the appeal of learning a language in a self-driving car, how such services would have to be implemented, and to what extent this would influence vehicular technologies and route navigation. The researchers conducted an international quantitative survey to this end and then verified the findings in qualitative terms with a group of test subjects in an experiment conducted in the MXT Lab.

Interior design and the experience matter more than horsepower

“Increasing digitalization in the form of connectivity and automation is not only changing our vehicles’ technology; it is also changing the entire driving experience as such,” says Dr. Florian Herrmann, a Managing Director of the institute and head of the “Mobility and Innovation Systems“ research unit at Fraunhofer IAO, explaining the motivation behind the MXT Lab. Automakers and suppliers as well as service and technology companies face the same challenge. They have to anticipate which innovations will translate into the greatest benefits and chose which of these innovations they want to pursue. “Mobility is going to be reinvented in the future. A car’s performance will be judged less on acceleration ratings and more on in-car functionality," says Timo Möller, head of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility. The MXT Lab set out to research these changing customer preferences because the market for new in-vehicle offerings is so large. The results of the McKinsey ACES Consumer Survey bear this out. It found that 70 percent of respondents would spend the time freed up by self-driving cars watching movies, communicating or reading.

Room for real experiments

The MXT Lab’s rapid prototyping methods and tools serve to fast-track projects. It provides an experimental space in which companies can jointly develop and test new ideas for tomorrow’s mobility experience (MX).

The MXT Lab’s demonstrator brought to life innovations in in-car language learning technology and services for subjects to experience and evaluate as part of the study.

The MXT Lab’s demonstrator brought to life innovations in in-car language learning technology and services for subjects to experience and evaluate as part of the study.

“The MXT Lab excels at assessing unprecedented technologies. The Stuttgart lab refined and qualitatively tested the results of online surveys using a very flexible demonstrator and real experiments with more than 20 test subjects,” says Tobias Schneiderbauer, project manager at McKinsey. The heads-up display on the windshield, for example, proved to be a far more popular interactive language learning tool in the lab experiment than in the online survey. Being able to learn a new language in a real-life context was also judged by the users as being more productive.

“Projects like these are only the beginning for the MXT Lab,” says Sebastian Stegmüller, the team leader responsible for the MXT Lab at the Fraunhofer IAO. “In future, we will coordinate with member companies to pursue a broad research agenda. The interaction between autonomous vehicles and pedestrians, context-specific activities and content in automated vehicles, research into tomorrow’s inter-modal mobility solutions – we could conceivably pursue all this and much more.”