Smart vehicles are just getting smarter. In 2019, Tata Motors introduced Nexon EV – a new-generation of electric and connected vehicles for the ASEAN market. Pune-based studio YUJ Designs partnered with them to develop an app called Z-Connect that provides a seamless interface between vehicle and driver.
The biggest design challenge for a vehicle control app is to provide rich functionality without impeding the driving experience.
The app thirty functions that range from safety and theft-prevention to monitoring vehicle health and encouraging safe driving. Samir Chabukswar, Founder & CEO, YUJ Designs, says the framing of the design challenge was key – both the Tata Motors and YUJ Designs teams viewed the app as part of the vehicle, not as an add-on and this helped to create a truly connected experience for the driver.
After research in Europe, USA and India, the team formulated four principles to guide the design process, as described in Exhibit A.
1. Convenience and ubiquity
YUJ Designs created a product roadmap with frequently-used features that would deliver the highest level of convenience for the driver. Users can lock/unlock the car with the app, as well as control lighting, horn and temperature remotely. Detailed car diagnostics can be seen at any time. In the ‘drive,’ mode, non-essential features are restricted.
To minimise time and cognitive load, 80% of driving functions are available directly from the landing screen with a single touch. The design language is largely visual and uses universally understood icons that are the same as those used within the vehicle.
2. Safety and security
Indian households typically share cars. Therefore the app offers a ‘valet’ mode that limits speed and distance via geofencing. In the case of theft, users can immobilise the vehicle via a dedicated 24X7 call centre. The app also alerts the driver if the charge is running low, predicting the charge required to reach the destination and showing nearby charging stations.
3. Influencing driving behaviour
Research showed that users always have concerns around mileage and maintenance. However, they do not realise that one of the major reasons for low mileage is poor driving.
“Driver behaviour classification was an important insight that emerged from the research,” says Samir Chabukswar. “We learnt that drivers were keen on tracking their driving patterns and learning more about better driving behaviour.”
By providing users with driving behaviour data, the design also persuades them to take a critical look at their driving patterns. The scorecard provides insights such as instances of harsh acceleration, jerky braking and average speed. There is also a gamification element to this: Drivers gain points for safe driving, can join local communities called ‘tribes’, and get recognition and badges.
According to the team from YUJ Designs, this is the first time an Electric Vehicle app has offered this functionality.
The intelligent platform augments driver decisions seamlessly. It automatically detects threats, accidents, and other incidents and alerts owners so they can take action. The car’s live location can be shared with other users. The app also sends messages to emergency contacts in case of a crash, theft, or emergency. Users can plan trips easily because the app monitors the current location of the car and allows route plotting, suggesting charging stations on the way.
With a response time of just six seconds from app to vehicle and vice-versa, the platform has now become an integral part of the Tata Motors EV experience. In tests done with users, the app was given a satisfaction score of 9.5/10. Notably, the YUJ Designs team won the prestigious Red Dot award 2020 for creating a connected mobility experience.