DAM is responsible for the design of SRT (Semi-Rapid Transit) mobility and vehicle concepts mainly in collaboration with RRT for the SRT operation requirements and IMVS for the vehicle packaging requirements. DAM focusses on the specific challenges of implementing autonomous vehicles in public transport and addresses issues regarding the integration and interaction of an AV with infrastructure, other traffic participants and with its users.
Furthermore, DAM researches how the mobility concepts can address the challenges defined by formal aesthetics and aspects of Universal Design, defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design”.
Beyond the SRT (Semi-Rapid Transit) mobility and vehicle concepts, DAM investigates Virtual Reality (VR) environments as tools for presentation, elaboration and evaluation with the specific case study of autonomous driving for public transportation in Singapore. Diverse tools are under study to identify their utility and their limitation during the Industrial Design process. For this, DAM will compare VR experiments with real life setups in order to validate the method as a reliable tool for designing new mobility and vehicle concepts.
DAM works closely with IMVS for alignment of packaging requirements for the SRT vehicles, with AIDA for validation of vehicle and mobility designs via pedestrian simulation, and with RRT for integration of the mobility concepts within the entire SRT operation system.
User-centred design for AVs and mobility concepts
The introduction of autonomous technology to the public transport system will greatly impact society and fundamentally change the way people think about personal mobility. Early engagement with users is critical to build the public’s trust and acceptance of the system. DAM focuses on human-centred design to understand and address the needs, perceptions and expectations of people in Singapore. Studies encompass various dimensions of human factors for a holistic approach in generating insights that are combined with technical expertise for the design of the SRT System.
The challenges of demographic change and multiculturalism in Singapore require a perfectly tailored public transport system, which fulfils user expectations, technical requirements as well as local regulations. For the design of SRT vehicles, these challenges are addressed with Universal Design by reducing styling and focusing on long-life formal aesthetics, ergonomics standards, intuitive handling and general adaptation to the user.
Regarding the mobility concepts, issues addressed within DAM are, for example, the amount of integration or separation of autonomous vehicles at transport nodes like MRT stations, or how to manage the peak loads of passengers at transition points. DAM develops concepts for mobility hubs to research the integration and also expansion of current transport nodes. In close collaboration with RRT and local institutions, the concepts are verified with simulation and planning tools to fit within the overall concept.
Fig. 1: Early-concepts for SRT vehicles and infrastructure (source: TUMCREATE & ARS Electronica)
Both vehicles and stations designs ensure equitable access to the public transport network for users with diverse abilities. Furthermore, an information system is needed that details different aspects of public transport operations (timetable, accessibility, changes, fares, etc.) and encourage people to use public transport and increase customer satisfaction. With the extinguishment of communication between drivers and pedestrians (e.g. eye contact and gesture) due to SRT’s level 5 autonomy, Human Machine Interaction (HMI) concepts are designed by DAM with suitable semantics considering the multiculturalism in Singapore to ensure safety, contextual awareness to the traffic participants, as well as ease of operation and information exchange. DAM wants to understand (1) How to reduce passengers’ anxiety when travelling in an autonomous public transportation?, and (2) How to establish passengers trust and increase comfort while travelling?
Virtual Research Lab
Building up experimental setups in real-life conditions to test the vehicles and mobility concepts would be a complex endeavour: It would be costly in terms of both money and time, and could be unsafe for potential test persons. Therefore, with the help of Virtual Reality (VR), alternative research methods are investigated by DAM to run experiments in a reliable way that keeps costs and time spent to a minimum while maximizing safety for test persons.
Fig. 2: Possible set-up for experiment within VR (source: TUMCREATE)
With the help of Head Mounted Displays (HMDs), test persons are immersed in a virtual environment where experiments can be conducted. Within the Virtual Research Lab, these set-ups will enable data exploration, design review and validation of concepts before actual prototyping in accordance with the steps of the Industrial Design process:
During the Research & Analysis phase, inductive and deductive behavioural studies of users inside the virtual environment can lead to a deeper level of insights and knowledge.
During the Conception phase, VR experiments allow an involvement of users into the decision making and conception process (encouraging participatory design).
During the Design phase, variations of the selected design concept(s) can be created with a minimum amount of cost and effort. Thanks to immersion, early-user tests can define first requirements regarding for instance package or ergonomics.
Finally, VR experiments can support the validation and optimization of the concept during the Refinement phase.