Living room on the move - Autonomous Vehicles and Social Experiences

Advances in technology have made autonomous vehicles a reality. Developing autonomous vehicles is technically complex and up to now research has focused on technical improvement and operative safety. As the level of automation increases the role of the driver will change; from controlling every movement of the vehicle into becoming an operator/passenger. Little is known about how this new context will affect the social experiences and socializing. While the social experience and socializing in relation to autonomous vehicles has been overlooked in research and practice, this workshop focus on these aspects. More so, it focuses on three different kinds of social experience and socializing, namely; between other road users and the autonomous car, the social activities within the autonomous car and the relationship between the car and the operator. This workshop addresses these issues and aims at exploring possible practices, research and design directions of autonomous vehicles in relation to social experiences. A human-centred design approach will be the core of the workshop, with playful field excursions and ideation sessions.


Workshop Set-up

Call for participation





Contemporary commercial cars can be driven partially automatically under some conditions since they today often are equipped with systems that can take over longitudinal and lateral control. In these cars the driver still need to monitor driving and stay in control. In recent years the area of fully autonomous vehicles has gained rapidly growing interest. Both experimental and commercial vehicles exist that literally can drive themselves on regular roads under certain conditions, and the most well-known example is the autonomous car designed by Google. As the level of automation increases the the driver role will change, from controlling every movement of the car into becoming an operator/passenger. This is a new era that opens up for game-changing designs of vehicles from a social perspective. In contrast to the technology development of autonomous vehicles and human factor consequences, there are few publications addressing the social implications and possibilities of autonomous cars. As social aspects of technology however is a very important driver for use and adoption, it makes an interesting workshop topic. As concepts are still under development, there is a possibility to challenge and influence the development with human centered (social) perspectives rather than a technology centered perspective.

There are several challenges connected to the social experiences with autonomous vehicles. In today’s traffic the driver of a vehicle communicates with other car drivers and unprotected road-users by gestures, both by eye contact and gesticulations, and by using the car itself by for example slowing down and flashing the headlights. The future automated vehicle will still exist in an environment where it needs to cooperate with other cars and unprotected road-users. But how should this communication be done when the “driver” is not in the loop? This new challenge has been appointed by several parties and there are current concepts where the car is communicating with the outside world with led lights and concepts that indicates that it is safe to cross the street by displaying a pedestrian crossing on the street.

When the driver does not need to be in the driving loop the interior of the car can turn into something else, it can turn into a place similar to a living-room, increasingly used for social interactions, productivity and relaxation. Hence, this new era opens up to innovations when it comes to the design of the interior of the car. There are existing concepts showing turntable seats to ease social interaction and relaxation. What can the interior of an automated car be like to increase the social experience within the car? How can interactions with the outer world be enhanced, in order to take part in productive or social interactions?

As mentioned, when the automaticity of vehicles increases, the relationship between vehicle and its users changes. When the driver takes on a role closer to an operator or passenger, the needs for communication and collaboration may change, maybe resulting in a different type of social relationship. Some aspects of this have been studied, such as the division of control and who should be the initiator of the automated actions, imagining the interaction as a companionship or cooperation between two equal parties, as well as which personality the car should have. All of these aspects can be seen as pieces of a social relationship. Thus looking at the collaboration between vehicle and users as a social relationship using different metaphors (main pilot and co-pilot, chauffeur and passenger, driving partners, two friends on a journey) could be an interesting approach to inform the design of the interaction. Which types of collaboration and social relationships are possible to implement in autonomous vehicles, and which are bring about the most enjoyable and safe ride?


Workshop Set-up

The workshop aims at exploring possible practices, research and design directions of autonomous vehicles in relation to social experiences. There have been previous workshops on autonomous vehicles in CHI conferences however with a broader scope. As work progress there is a need to become more directed, and this workshop targets the social experiences related to autonomous driving.

The goals of the workshop are to:

  • Explore research questions and design ideations concerning social experiences connected to autonomous driving. This will be done from three different sub-themes, namely;
  • The user's social experiences with other people (within/connected to the vehicle, i.e. socializing when moving)
  • The vehicle’s social experiences with other road users (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles)
  • The user's social experiences with the vehicle (i.e. forming bonds/relationships to the interface)
  • To strengthen and broaden the community of researchers and practitioners within autonomous driving and interaction/UX design

The focus of the workshop is semi-autonomous vehicles (i.e. vehicles that are able to drive for themselves for certain stretches, but where also the driver will have the possibility/restraint to drive)  to fully autonomous vehicles.

The ambition is to write a paper on the outcomes to conclude the challenges and possibilities within social experiences and autonomous cars.


Planned Activities

The workshop is a full day activity, scheduled for six working hours, with a mid-morning break, a lunch break, and a mid-afternoon break.

In the morning, representatives from Volvo Cars will present the  “Drive Me” project within autonomous driving, where 100 drivers will participate in an on-road longitudinal user study of autonomous cars. This is followed by an introduction of the workshop topic and future challenges within social behaviour and autonomous driving.  

After a short presentation of workshop participants, the participants will be divided into subgroups, depending on interest and background. The groups will investigate the subtopics of autonomous cars and social experiences, initially through a short and playful field work exercise, followed by an ideation exercise. In the afternoon, the group will re-ensemble to present and discuss outcomes of the activities, and final conclusions will be made.

  • Theme A: The autonomous car’s social experiences with other road users/places/etc.: how the car autonomously interact with other road users such as pedestrians and other drivers. To encourage insights and discussions, an initial field exercise will be made by observing road user behaviour from foot or by car (a Volvo car will be available). After the field exercise, there will be a  design ideation/research question generation session, where toy cars and other scenario props are available to encourage discussions.  
  • Theme B: Social experiences inside the car: how to support social experiences with others (both present and non-present in the car). The workshop will have a creative outlook, based on the “Setting the stage for future autonomous experiences” method, where ideations are based on playful reenactment of future (social) scenarios and large-scale drawings of future autonomous vehicle interiors. Props and discussion triggers for the future ‘moving living room’ will be available.
  • Theme C: Social experience with the car: the social aspects of the interaction between car and user(s). The workshop will begin with an exploration of different metaphors for the relationship between vehicle and users, with playful enactment of these metaphors to dig deeper into which shape they can take in practice. Ideation together with discussion on what affects the relationship and the consequences of different types of relationships, can hopefully land in ideas on which metaphors could be relevant, represented as matched vehicle and user personas.


Call for participation

Researchers and practitioners with interest in for example interaction design, social experiences, autonomous technology, and transportation solutions are encouraged to attend. There is a limit of maximum 25 participants.
Those interested in attending should submit a short bio (max 500 words) describing their interest and a short motivation why they think the workshop is relevant. Applicants are welcome to suggest possible research approaches/theories/models/questions to bring to the discussion. Also, the applicant are asked to state which of the subthemes that is of interest, by numbering them from 1 to 3, where 1 is the most prefered.



The organizers are part of the research projects Automotive User Experience (AUX), HMI for Automated Driving in Traffic (HaTric) and Automotive Integration of Multi Modal Interaction Technologies (AIMMIT), partly founded by the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova.


Ingrid Pettersson

Ingrid Pettersson is a Ph.D. student at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, working in the area of interaction design with focus on automotive user experiences. The goal is to develop new methods to support the creation of a positive in-vehicle user experience. She is employed by Volvo Cars, the department for Digital User Experience Advanced Engineering and Research.

Lena Hylving

Lena Hylving is a researcher at Viktoria Swedish ICT and is interested in organizational aspects of UX development. She holds a Ph.D. in Information Systems and focus her research on digitalization dynamics and materiality. Before doing research she worked within the Automotive industry with user interaction design for infotainment systems.

Annie Rydström

Annie Rydström is research project manager for Digital User Experience (DUX) research projects at Volvo Cars. She holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Psychology and has previously worked with user experience, usability and distraction studies at Volvo Cars and as a human factors safety analyst at Chalmers University of Technology.

Helena Strömberg

Helena Strömberg is a postdoctoral researcher at the Division Design & Human Factors at Chalmers University at Technology. She studies the relationship between people and the artefacts they use in daily life, the effects they have on each other, and this relationship’s consequences for sustainable everyday mobility.

MariAnne Karlsson

MariAnne Karlsson is professor in Human Factors Engineering at Chalmers University at Technology. She has for more than 15 years been involved in R&D projects with a user experience theme, from a theoretical and a methodological perspective. She is also responsible for two master courses on the theme Design for Experience.



Ingrid Petterssoningrid.pettersson [at]