Modular Autonomy

VW’s Premium Sharing Experience


Project info

MFA: General Product (Service Design)

7 weeks


Collaboration Partner

Volkswagen AG


Team members

Joanna Pruchnicka, IxD

Kishen Patel, TD


 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.




Initial exploration

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.



Our concept involves separating a traditional car into two elements: Vehicle cabin purchased and owned by customer, and autonomous powered chassis, on demand by all.

Vehicle cabin:

This is the part the customers purchase. By owning this part, they can customize the cabin as they please. They can leave items in the cabin if they choose to, and they don’t have to worry about others in their own personal, private space. By reducing the ownership to just the cabin, upfront cost can be much lower, reducing the barrier to entry.


The mechanical heart of the vehicle. It will be 100% electric and fully autonomous. Access to the chassis is via a subscription service. By taking ownership responsibilities away from the customer, maintenance is no longer the burden of the customers. It will be available to customers on an on-demand basis, showing up only as needed. Today most vehicles sits around idle for most of the day, only being used during commute time and the occasional trips. By letting the chassis share with others, it increases the efficiency by increase utilization and reduce idle time.

Various Body options:

These are vehicle cabin options not owned by private individuals. It can be a taxi, delivery vehicle, ambulance, etc. When a chassis is not is use by a private customer, it can be used by various businesses with their own cabin to perform a variety of tasks.


User study and observation

We recruited some staff and volunteered our service as a virtual ride sharing service for our first user study. We provided an on demand transportation for a various scenarios such as daily commute, lunch outing, evening errands, etc., to understand the daily habits of car owners. To supplement on the field experiments, we also interviewed others that weren’t in the field to learn more about their daily routine regarding their car ownership.



Software prototypes with wire frame interfaces were created to test user interaction with the device, and hardware prototypes were used to test user interaction with the vehicle.


Modular vehicle exterior development


The bulk of the vehicle development and final form was the work of our transportation design teammate, with us offering feedback and critique along the way.



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."