UX and UI will play a huge role in the success of the autonomous vehicle industry.
In the future, who—or what—would you rather have show up at your door with a delivery for you: a friendly albeit tip-seeking delivery person, or a self driving truck?
Sure, the friendly delivery man brings your food to your door, but the Google self-driving minivan doesn’t need small talk or a tip. The food it delivers could be less expensive, too, since the pizza parlor will be able to eliminate the cost of delivery people (and their benefits).
Despite your grandmother’s insistence that small talk is the basis of human decency, societal trends are increasingly dictated by young people, who like saving money almost as much as they dislike interacting with people.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have been in the works for a while, but aren’t quite street legal yet. In the near future, however, businesses should bet on autonomous vehicles to take over a variety of delivery and driving services currently performed by humans.
Autonomous vehicles are poised to reframe how we think about the delivery and in-home service industries. The transition from tipping a delivery person to grabbing your own pizza out of a self-driving minivan will raise the bar for IoT app developers, as it’s their job to make the self-serve experience a seamless one.
How AVs Will Change Home Service to Self-Service
Autonomous vehicles remove the need for a human to deliver equipment or products to your home, which begs the question: do we still need a person to perform the service at all?
Some services require an expert craftsperson (not just anyone can repair your electrical outlets), but others—delivering pizza or vacuuming your pool—don’t require special skills. With autonomous vehicles transporting the pool vacuum to your door, it would be quite easy for you to take it off the truck and put the automated vacuum in your pool.
The rise of autonomous vehicles will transform the current home service model, as companies question whether they really need to pay someone to drive (read: ride) to your home and perform a relatively straightforward task you could do yourself with an app.
Companies that can’t do away with service people entirely can at least offer a self-service option for those consumers who have small requests or want to save money. When you don’t have to pay wages and benefits to a service person, you can offer services at a lower price.
Think of how many people prefer using self-checkout at the grocery store, possibly so they can avoid interacting with a cashier. Now, imagine if your groceries also cost less when you choose self-checkout because you don’t contribute to the clerk’s wages.
To remove the human employee from the equation, companies will need apps that enable consumers to serve themselves. App developers will become essential to transitioning from the human-driven car to the self-serve, autonomous vehicle economy.
Autonomous Vehicles Put the User in the Driver’s Seat
The new AV-driven self-service model will mean the user will be more involved in the process, whether placing a food order through an app, inserting paper into the shredder correctly, or operating carpet cleaning equipment.
Advances in robotics will likely also change how people interact with these services. For example, instead of inserting the paper into the shredder yourself, robots built for the purpose could do it for you.
For all this to occur, IoT app development will require a high standard for user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). If people don’t find it easy to adjust to the new self-service model, they won’t accept it. To help companies succeed, the challenge falls on IoT developers to design apps that make the help quick, intuitive, and convenient.
Developers need to start thinking about this today if they are going to participate in the revolution of tomorrow. The number of IoT app developers needed to accomplish this will grow over time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts demand for software developers to increase by 17 percent from 2014 to 2024.
Tech companies and auto manufacturers currently refining autonomous vehicles will be looking for innovations from app developers as soon as they can. In order to take a driver’s seat in the oncoming autonomous vehicles revolution, IoT developers should be discussing, researching, and developing prototypes as soon as possible.
If you can meet autonomous vehicles with an expertly designed app as it comes out of the gate, you’ll establish yourself as a leader in the industry for companies looking to implement apps with their own autonomous vehicles.
How to Develop for Self-Service in the Autonomous Vehicles Marketplace
Service app developers must consider two audiences: services companies and the patrons of those companies. But you should design for only one audience: the consumer. Although you’ll need to sell your idea to the service company itself, your IoT service app must meet the needs of the company’s customers.
As the actual end users, if the app doesn’t make things easier or more convenient for customers, they’ll find another service provider.
Because the self-service autonomous vehicles economy will require a shift in mindset for customers, it’s imperative that IoT developers start by considering the pain points that will arise for users. Think of what questions those consumers will ask, like: “How do I use this equipment?” “Who (and how) can I ask if I have a question?” “I plugged it in, but it’s not working. What do I do now?”
Without a service person on the job, consumers will need to navigate the service or delivery themselves. They may have only your app to guide them, so focus on UI design and ease-of-use.
Make the UI as intuitive and clean as possible. Study and incorporate UX features that make it faster and easier to get services completed or goods into the home. Incorporate easy methods for customers to get in touch with services teams and ask for help.
Put yourself in the consumers’ shoes as they take pizza from the autonomous vehicles, receives their bags of groceries, or loads precious belongings onto a truck. What is the consumer’s primary goal? By the time the pizza arrives, the aim is to grab the food and get back inside fast. The app that asks you to fill out two simple fields to complete your order will likely prove more popular than one with 10 fields to fill out.
The consumer requesting an autonomous moving truck won’t prioritize time nearly as much as caution. An app with more form fills, well-written instructions, and access to in-app chat with a customer service representative can reassure customers that their belongings are in good hands (or rather, wheels).
As developers, we know there are endless bells and whistles we could integrate into our apps. But if they don’t solve a customer’s problem or enrich his or her life in some way, they don’t belong.
Security Could be the Toughest Obstacle
Today, package thieves follow UPS trucks around and take boxes right from people’s front doors. It’s not hard to envision an updated version of this when autonomous vehicles roam the street. Integrating security assurances into UI will help early adopters feel comfortable taking the exciting leap into the AV economy.
Service companies will need apps that confirm their autonomous vehicles have reached the correct party before they release the goods or unlock the unit. This identification could be touch-based, phone-based, or a numerical code. The app’s UI should make it clear to consumers that this slight inconvenience keeps them and their information safe.
While it can certainly ruin a holiday, occasional package thievery doesn’t compare with a hacker accessing thousands of personal records from a restaurant by infiltrating its autonomous delivery car. autonomous vehicles driving to consumer homes will collect addresses and most likely credit card numbers. Multifactor authentication and partitioning information will become all the more necessary in app development.
Code for Ubiquitous Compatibility
It will take sophisticated software to run the autonomous, so IoT app developers must prioritize compatibility between their technology, the car’s software, and other apps. Today’s consumers expect smooth connectivity between their IoT devices and their favorite apps. They also expect the process to be clear and easy, or they will abandon it with a swipe of the finger.
IoT connectivity means developers must test on all devices. Service companies will need apps that are fully compatible with both Android and iOS phones and with the software that runs the autonomous vehicles.
Streamlining these separate facets promise to be a complex challenge for ambitious developers. The straightforward and clean UI “face” over this extensive backend development will be the developer’s masterpiece.
Plan to Continually Upgrade
Operating via the ultimate IoT device (the autonomous vehicle), service app software will be open-ended and forever amenable to upgrades. Because your app won’t need to be physically loaded into the car before the vehicle is shipped, creation of autonomous vehicles and the app can occur in tandem.
The thrilling novelty of IoT apps for service autonomous vehicles also means that version 1.0 may not be glitch-free. Developers can send upgrades and patches over the app’s lifespan, just as game developers have done for years.
The freedom to continually upgrade and repair is both a blessing and a curse. Service app upgrades must keep pace with mobile and AV software updates. While something of an outside third party, service apps will be part of the comprehensive AV ecosystem and must interact well with both the vehicle software and other apps automakers will use to enhance the car.
Helping Users Help Themselves
Can you remember the last time you visited a full-service gas station and sat in your car while an employee filled your tank? While your grandmother may have preferred to visit Ned, who chatted with her as he filled the car, the majority of society flocked to the self-serve model in the 1970s as it saved both consumers and gas stations time and money.
The same irresistible benefits will draw companies and consumers to self-service in the AV economy. It’s become second nature to self-serve at the gas station. Soon, it will be second nature to use a self-service model when ordering groceries, bathing your dog, or cleaning your swimming pool.
Simply open an app, press a few intuitive buttons, and wait for the AV to arrive with the product you requested or the service equipment you need.
Developers will be pivotal in determining whether consumers accept self-service models for many of their daily tasks. Getting customers to trust Google’s minivan pizza delivery over the pleasant delivery boy will take some effort. Still, the drive for ever-increasing convenience, advanced technology and financial savings tends to outweigh traditional reticence.
The more complicated the world gets, the more we rely on consumer-oriented user interfaces, enabling all users to take advantage of the amazing benefits the Internet of Things promises.
Hunter Jensen is the Founder and CEO of Barefoot Solutions, an innovative digital agency headquartered in San Diego, CA. Barefoot Solutions specializes in web and mobile design and development including web, iOS, Android, IoT, AppleTV, Apple Watch, and more. Having worked in technology for more than 19 years, Hunter’s experience covers the entire lifecycle of product design and development, as well as all other facets of running a digital agency, including business development and fundraising.