Innovative Design Methods to Respond to the Challenges of Designing Driverless Automobiles

Selby Coxon, Brian Fildes, Andrew Parkes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


There is no shortage of literature and commentary concerning the anticipated autonomous future of the private automobile. First demonstrated by General Motors in 1935 (1) and slated to be ubiquitous on our highways as early as 2020 (2) (3). Swept away by the optimism of technological advances that had hitherto resided only in science fiction, the discourse surrounding a driverless future fluctuates between over confidence and cold recognition of the vast array of challenges that remain to be surmounted. It is a central narrative of human progress that we have looked to the assistance of science and technology to increasingly replace an ever-expanding sophisticated array of tasks that we find either too mundane or too complex to bother with ourselves. Other proponents of the driverless car have advanced more layered motivations for removing humans from the driving seat; safety, removing driver error as the primary cause of collisions. Saving fuel, by driving closer together and by so doing ameliorating the implication of car use upon greenhouse gases. Reducing congestion, a debatable observation, but certainly having implications upon traffic management in densely populated cities. Potentially changing the cityscape by reductions in parking requirements and increases in shared use or ownership. The level of sophistication required of a computer to understand the panoply of human behaviours, cultural norms, journey needs and expectations make the widespread integration of a driverless vehicles very challenging. However, since the momentum of ‘progress’ is with the pursuit of an autonomous future we should take steps to engage intellectually with those challenges to set at least a roadmap for the future. This paper describes the application of a design thinking methodology to respond to these challenges. The methodology is predicated upon the central tenets of design thinking in that it is people-centred, structured, and focused upon imagining future scenarios. The methodology was applied in a group workshop setting tapping into the collective knowledge of its diverse participants in order to collate a number of possible scenarios and conceptual ideas for reflection and development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransportation Research Board 97th Annual Meeting
Place of PublicationWashington DC, USA
PublisherThe National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventTransportation Research Board (USA) Annual Meeting 2018 - Washington, United States of America
Duration: 7 Jan 201811 Jan 2018
Conference number: 97th


ConferenceTransportation Research Board (USA) Annual Meeting 2018
Abbreviated titleTRB 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
Internet address

Cite this