A double exposure of a man with a beard superimposed on an electric car

Connected Car Conundrum

February 12, 2021

You snap a pair of magnetic sun shades on your AR glasses as you exit your home. The door automatically locks behind you as your new electric car awaits you in the driveway — lights on, interior climate adjusted, and Podcast queued up for your commute this morning. Just 5 minutes ago, through an integration with your Google Home, the Assistant opened the garage, undocked the trickle charger, and rolled the vehicle out of the garage into the driveway, all without your help. The probability of your routine is pretty baked by this point, reinforced by your actions and your willingness to give up your personal data.

Through your glasses, a badge pops and floats above the vehicle. You’ve completed your first 100 trickle charges — an environmental award for overnight energy conservation. You’re given 60 free minutes of in-car Spotify. As your hand approaches the handle, you hear the door click unlock. The AR overlay lock on the door handle swings open. A blast of warm air hits you as you climb in, and an atmospheric wash of ambient music swells to greet you. Before you can get moving, the system requires a fastened seat belt to function. As you click it in, a selection of destinations presets pop on the cinematic touchscreen between the steering wheel and passenger side.

You’re going to work — you always do on weekdays, and that’s always the first destination. “46 minutes to work” the system softly tells you, showing congestion along the fastest and safest route. Your glasses shift to driving mode, silencing notifications and providing simple heads up information such as driving efficiency and object detection. Your car doesn’t have a gear selector, you just step on the accelerator to get it moving — like a go kart. As you leave the driveway, an alert pops in your glasses “Remember to signal.” You take note.

Before you reach the highway, you decide to pick up a coffee. As you turn into the plaza, a car cuts you off and your car slams on the brakes for you. In your glasses, the car is outlined in red and an alert pops into view telling you emergency braking was enabled. Startled, you pull into the drive thru. Your glasses scan the QR code on the menu, making a connection to the restaurant. Just above your steering wheel are augmented menu options, especially a highlighted breakfast sandwich that earns you more points. “Welcome to McDonalds, what can I get for you today?” plays over your car speakers. You order a coffee with cream only. Your card is charged automatically as you grab the beverage from the drive thru window.

On the highway, careful not to take your eyes off the road, you sip your coffee. The points not earned from the sandwich would surely save you in health insurance — Be Healthy, Live Better, Save the ads say. The eye tracking sensors in your glasses let the car know you’re watching the road as it safely navigates traffic autonomously. Your Podcast comes to an end — asking the Assistant to play some music is met with a problem. In your glasses, a warning about the nature of the music you’re about to listen to will affect your overall driving score for the day. Supposedly the music leads to aggressive driving. You really don’t want to listen to whatever the system suggests, so you proceed anyway.

As you approach your exit on the highway, your glasses highlight your steering wheel, and instruct you to take control of the vehicle. You extend your legs back to the pedals, placing your left hand back on the steering wheel — the glasses alert you again, instructing you to place both hands on the steering wheel. With a bit of frustration — this is all so new — you place your coffee in the cup holder and put your hands begrudgingly at 10 and 2, scoffing as you come to a stop at the light at the end of the off ramp.

Rolling into the parking garage at work, your glasses recognize the darker environment, instructing you to remove the magnetic sun shades and direct you to the 3rd floor where there are open spots. Using augmented direction arrows and a green glow, you find an empty spot. “Park for me” you say as you release your hands from the wheel. The Assistant beeps, putting a 360 degree camera feed in your glasses, then backs your car perfectly into the spot.

Above the steering wheel pops a driving report card in your glasses. A surprisingly low C+ gives you pause — showing you some faults in your trip: the failure to signal coming out of your driveway, the detour from your safest route to get a coffee, the braking delay when the car cut you off, the choice of music, the one-handed driving, and your general overall in-car attention and attitude. For the score, you’re billed $5.68 on your per-trip insurance, an increase of $2.08 from your previous trip’s A- score. A driving report and suggestions for reducing insurance costs will be shared to your phone.

As you exit the vehicle, the doors lock behind you and the lights animate off. When you look back at the car, an augmented status hovers above it, showing battery level, current interior climate, and predicted next usage. You take a sip of that coffee that cost you an extra ding to your insurance score, and wonder if it was worth it.

Shawn Cole 2021
Strategic Foresight, Research & Design