Traditional car ownership model means you can have your vehicle exactly the way you want it, but a car is expensive to own and maintain, and it is an inefficient allocation of resources as it sits idle most of the time.
Car sharing model is efficient and economical, but it is impersonal and emotionally unfulfilling.
Our project combined elements of both models and kept what we believe are the strengths of both.
10 weeks team project with Kishen Patel and Joanna Pruchnicka, collaboration with Volkswagen AG, Spring 2016.
- Separate traditional car into two elements: Vehicle cabin purchased and owned by customer, and autonomous powered chassis, on demand by all.
- Owning only the cabin dramatically reduce total cost of ownership, making within reach of more potential customers.
- Shared autonomous chassis is a service on demand, can be utilized efficiently, and removes the burden of management away from customers.
- Variation in chassis types means the customer can have a sedan one day, a SUV next, or a sports car when they desire.
Volkswagen's project brief is very open-ended, we explored various directions we could take this project. Ultimately we decided on finding a balance between traditional ownership model and a sharing model and used that as our staring point.
User study and observation
We recruited some staff and volunteered our service as a virtual "On demand ride sharing service", followed by interviews, to better understand user needs.
Both hardware and software prototypes were tested.
Modular vehicle exterior development
4 months after we concluded our project, Elon Musk published part 2 of his Master Plan in a blog post.
When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.
You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you're at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not."
It is nice to have our idea validated by the automotive industry :-)