VW Sense is a proposal for future mobility, where autonomous vehicles will play an important role on our physical and mental health.

It was developed in collaboration with Volkswagen, in 9 weeks at Umeå Institute of Design teamed up with Piotr Kuklo and Viljami Raisänen.

Here I worked along all phases, mainly developing and testing the interface according to project requirements.


A car of the future, that makes drivers live longer detecting stress and abnormal activities and acting on it. Its Conversational User Interface makes Sense a good companion for daily routine and the different seating positions show the vehicle versatility.


1. Through context awareness, help drivers to improve their wellbeing;
2. Smooth adaptation to different activities;
3. Change of the approach machine » companion;


  • Research, Concept Development (group)
  • Prototyping
  • Interface Design


It’s 2035. The rise of autonomous vehicles and unrestrained urbanization led people to spend much more time inside cars – they work, watch movies, talk to friends, family, and sleep inside them. When technologies turn vehicles into moving shelters, what about people’s health?

Due to the demands for efficiency and productivity from workers in the future, we believe that society’s concern about physical and mental health, thus well-being, will be even more in evidence than in the present time. Smart devices will be wellness-centered in order to extend people’s lives.


Focusing on commuters

As heavy users, commuters – or people who use the car for many hours every day – know like no one how to choose the best cost-benefit for cars and the key aspects of each vehicle. We interviewed two of them to understand a little more about their day and their pains. The outcome? Keep the business profile, but be ergonomic.

“I earn money with my car because I can prospect more clients. I like it because I don’t have to wait for taxis or buses. The bad part is that I spend at least 3 hours everyday in it.”

Future Insights

Identifying VW’s characteristics was crucial to make sure we wouldn’t get far from the brand’s proposal. For insights about future, we found reports from Gartner and PwC talking about technology and work trends. Data collected, we envisioned an “Orange Future”, where traditional employment gives place to short-term contracts. At the same time, there will still be a lot of lifelogging for work purposes and dissemination of a “well-being” culture. Urbanization will expand megalopolises to sizes never seen before.

  • Enduring value
  • Innovative
  • Responsibility
  • People’s car
  • Allows people to take advantage of the traveling time
  • Tracking devices
  • Internet of Things
  • Bigger cities (longer distances)
  • More time spent inside car in the future
  • Freelance jobs (need for freedom)

The user of the future

After research we could define how the typical user of the future would be.


Alice, 31, architect, responsible for supervising many constructions around the city. Uses it as a temporary office in construction yards for having breaks and working. Since she moves a lot, a comfortable car is indispensable. Sees car like a traveling companion instead of only a machine.

Demanding and busy

Values success

Often forget about her health

Design goals

At this stage, it’s important to set goals to measure the project’s success in the end.

1. Help users improving their wellbeing by being context-aware

To provide a better experience, the machine needs to know about the user – not only the wishes but also routine and feelings.

2. Smooth adaptation to different activities

To respond to the user’s emotional and physical needs, it needs to adapt somehow to the different activities performed inside it.

3. Change of the approach: machine » companion

The days where machines were only cold entities are gone. Today, machines understand context and feelings. Thus, being able to understand you as person and being there to help is to be a companion.


Ergonomics and autonomous vehicles

Ergonomics play an important role in the driver’s health. The vehicle needs to have not only universal measures but also be comfortable for long periods of driving.
When talking about autonomous vehicles, one of major concerns is about what the users will do during the travels – so we thought about 3 driving modes in different positions: one for stimulating activity and driving, another one for working or media consumption and the third for relaxing or resting.

Active position – Manual drive
  • Makes user active
  • Stimulates pleasure for driving
Sitting position – Autonomous or Manual Drive
  • Makes user active
  • Stimulates pleasure for driving
Resting position – Autonomous drive
  • Resting, sleeping
  • Filtered information flow

Tracking devices and context awareness

VW Sense takes advantage of the fact that people’s emotional and biological data is recorded by their personal devices, processing it to adapt its features and behavior according to the user’s state.



At this stage, I got in charge of the digital interface of the system. Since we are dealing with a dynamic situation, the aim was to design simple visuals with clear communication. The system has 3 core functions:

Instead of the traditional steering wheels, we are using handles to control. The Drive function allows controlling the machine when the person is sitting and standing up.

Work and media consumption are subject to interruptions due to outside distractions. Windows can have total or partial opacity and exterior sounds can be filtered, isolating the interior.

Media consumption will be one of the most performed activities inside the vehicles of the future. When this feature is on, the manual driving is not allowed.

UI early stages

To simplify it, I had the option (image aside: Option A) of displaying all elements on the windshield.
This alternative required a special care with the visibility of the interface elements while keeping using a physical dashboard was a tradition. I decided to move forward with option A.

Option A: Displaying visual interface on the windshield

Option B: Visuals on the dashboard


Sound if often employed to help to reduce the visual load of UIs, but in this case that is not the only reason. In order to create a machine that talks to the user in a friendly way while speeding up navigation, a system that is controlled through voice dialog will help to achieve the goal.
There is still a need to show when the user is being heard and when the car is talking. For that, at the bottom I added discrete lights that shine according to the sound levels.

Prototyping the experience

The initial prototypes included a story where the subjects were asked to interact with the interface. The setup included projections (to simulate the windshield) and bean bags (to be the car seat that changes angle, one of us was pulling and pushing the bean bags to change the height).

Final Solution


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