Category Archives: Design

Tesla Model 3 agile car development framework

When I wrote about the Tesla Model 3 I focused on design , infotainment system and its pre-order success. Today indeed I write about the production approach that, reading the recent news about skipping the beta testing, is going to be assimilated to the agile software development framework.

In the last days I read many articles about the Model 3 pre-production beta testing skipping. This news was so curious that I needed to retrieve the source, so link after link I landed on the Anton Wahlman articles on Seeking Alpha “The Secret Tesla Investor Call To Which You Were Not Invited” and “Tesla Selling Model 3 Test Cars: Accounting Questions“. Considering that at the moment none knows how these “test cars” will be sold, which quality level they will have and what kind of refinement will be done by the testers/customers, I’ll focus on what I define the Tesla’s agile car development framework.

First, what does agile software development is? Wikipedia says:

Agile software development describes a set of principles for software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

For understanding how this applies to Tesla and Model 3, you don’t need to be a Software Engineer or a Digital Product Manager like me. Read just the words that I put in bold and then think how normal is buying a videogame or a smartphone and immediately update it online. Is it possible for a Tesla? The answer is yes, but why?

Tesla isn’t a traditional carmaker, not only for the charismatic presence of Elon Musk and not only because its investors are continuing putting money in. Tesla actually is the unique car producer that together with a car produces a software Operative System that, thanks to the car’s hardware, can manage remotely things that any other carmaker couldn’t control neither at its official assistance network. The most impressive Tesla OS back-end updates are: the battery capacity, the engine power and the self-driving functions.

Whatch this overview video where the deep hardware and software integration is demonstrated.

Reading the Tesla OS official page is easy to understand that the Musk’s car are disrupting the automotive industry because they shifted the core of their products from mechanics to software development. It doesn’t mean that the Teslas hardware (chassis, shocks, body, glasses etc) aren’t good enough the other carmakers or that they didn’t need the same R&D and pre-production tests. What Musk said is that the knowledge-base that they have accumulated from the development of the Model S and Model X will give them the opportunity to jump directly to the production lines skipping the beta test and leaving the “final testing” to the first users (read this Wahlman article for in-depth analysis).

Skipping the beta testing for a traditional car-maker is a sort of suicide, but if you are Tesla it is the first application of its agile car development framework approach. The Tesla’s cars are really different from the other cars. Its engines, chassis, interiors and all the other components are a way simpler from the other cars so, once tested and standardized, they don’t need to be tested again for all the models. I suppose that the electric engines and the batteries can be scaled in a easiest way than the combustion engines, and that the chassis architectures simpler and less stressed than traditional cars. Moreover the Tesla Model 3 will be really more simple than the Model S like this official press release states and the dashboard (absence!) suggests.

Above this, for sure Tesla has other three big advantages. The first one is the big amount of real usage data that users need to share with the company for having the OS updates; the second is the capacity to absorb a lot of physical/software recall/updates thank to its low volume production, its dealers network and its over the air OS updates; the third is the customers base that is composed by engaged and motivated fans that are healthy, techies, early-adopters, green contingent and sports car lovers (read “Elon Musk and the cult of Tesla” by Hope Reese).

So the Model 3 beta test skipping shouldn’t be interpreted like a dangerous move for accelerating the mass production and keeping the investors happy (during the investors call Musk admitted a delay in the mass production plan). It is more like an iteration of a product with the most important hardware parts already tested, while the easily replaceable components and the less critical front-end functions are still in development.
To be simple. Tesla is like Facebook launching its new app. The core is always the same but the design improves fast and in an iterative way. For this reaason Tesla presented the Model 3 as the next company model, not as a concept car.

Tesla has commoditized the cars hardware focusing on user experience, green technology, autonomous driving, products distribution and customers engagement.

That’s agile, but it is even a strategic move for conquering the electric vehicle supremacy and restarting, in 5 or 7 years, the traditional research and the tests for a real new product.

Photo credits: MatrixSoft, BGR, Carscoops.

The led headlight innovation by Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan

Looking at the recent Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan, I was impressed by the led headlamps colour. At first I thought that it was only a show car like other concept at the Auto Shanghai Motor Show, but then its design was so evolutive that I understood that Daimler was introducing and testing a relevant design innovation.

The headlights are one of the most important part of the car’s design. Since when led technology was incorporated in headlights introducing the “day-light” concept, I was pretty impressed by the light signatures that the automotive companies were creating. Today any modern car in any advanced market could be sold without day-light led in the headlights, but even if the lighting market has a multitude of technologies, what puts in common all the solutions is the color. All led lights are white. No exception. No creativity. No innovation.

I think that this decision is obvious because the “white ice” color is the most visible, but considering that leds today have more a design function than a functional function is time to innovate.

The Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan indeed isn’t just a concept car: it is a beautiful led headlights innovation test that will change all the automotive industry. I’m pretty happy that finally an automotive company disrupted the evolutive lighting design, bringing a new concept in one of the most visible design part of their car. It is one of the more interesting “ready to production” exterior design innovation that I’ve seen in the last two years and the fact that a luxury company like Mercedes-Benz launched a project like this, make me really confident about the creative future for the cars led lights design.

Following what Merceded-Benz writes on its website talking about the core innovation of the Concept A Sedan:

Guideline: “Stimulating Contrast”.

The headlamps with their eyebrows as a typical feature of the brand as well as the striking grid structure on the inside guarantee a confident look – and a simultaneously high recognition value. The structural sculpture that has been broken down in detail represents a technically based counterpole to the sensual exterior – “stimulating contrast” is one of the six guiding principles of Mercedes-Benz design. The grid structure in the lamps has been coated with a UV paint and it is exposed to ultraviolet light. As a result, the headlamps “glow” in different colours, depending on the light medium – the daytime running lamps, for instance, are white

In my memory, recently only Suzuki and Chevrolet put colors in the headlights, but not using the led technology. Instead they just put some coloured plastics inside the headlights giving to the car a really differentiating design that indeed is helping the commercial succes of the Suzuki Vitara and of the Chevrolet Onix.

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“Featured contents” function design for instant messaging apps

Recently I studied IM Bots, but unfortunately every time that I experienced them on a Facebook Messenger I felt unsatisfied. Bots and AI are for sure the personal assistants of the future, but we must wait for their evolution and for our language adaptation (read my posts about Bots: Chatbots are contents, not conversations and Facebook Messenger’s Bots are direct, customizable and automated communication channels, not personal assistants).

Intead of Bots, in these months I used many times a lot of Chat Customer Services on some companies web sites and on Messenger. As all the studies say, communicating with a company through our favourite instant messaging app is smarter than downloading any branded app or using the old-fashioned email. My experience was great and these companies increased loyalty and my admiration.

Using Whatsapp, Messenger, Telgram or WeChat for companies is a great challenge for many technical and communicational factors:

  • Technical, because CRMs should access to IM platforms for identifying users and managing the requests trafic.
  • Communicational, because some contents should be always and easily available for customers instead of lose in the chat’s flow.

As a Product Manager I focused on the second problem and, starting from a Whatsapp-like layout, I designed the “Featured contents” function. The scope of this function is to enrich the discussion between the customer and the company saving the requested contents in a reserved area of the app.
Watch the “Featured contents” gif animation for understanding how it function in the direct relationship between a Hotel and its customer.

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Self-driving bus service models and passengers User Experience

In the last months automotive world is talking a lot about autonomous and self-driving vehicles both for private and public transportation. During my day researches one day I found the exciting call for collaboration for Olli, the self-driving vehicle produced by Local Motors.

Designing the autonomous bus user experience is a complex task: for first because self-driving buses will serve the traditional public transportation diversified and multi-age target; second because without the driver and, in some cases, without a fixed route, passengers will have some new functional and informational needs.

The first part of my project started with a Service Design session focused on what kind of transportation services a self-driving bus can serve.

Personal on-demand shuttle

It’s like a Taxi/Uber, but less exclusive and more spacious. It brings one or more people from A to B. It can be reserved days in advance and can make various stops during a single dedicated service. The served area is restricted.

Shared on-demand shuttle

It’s like public transport service except for the fact that passengers can add a personalized stop to the route within the bus pertaining area. The route is dynamically optimized depending on users destinations and pick-up calls. The high level of complexity makes this service ideal for closed areas like small districts, big companies, entertainment parks etc.

Public Transport

It’s exactly the same public transport service as we know it.

Delivery service 

It’s like sending objects using a shipping company, but instead of giving the package to a human, users will schedule the shipment using an app or a dedicated device in the bus, and then they store the package in a secured housing inside the vehicle. The recipient will track the shipment in real-time and will be alerted when the bus is at the delivery point (or in front of his door). This service can be added to the “Shared on-demand shuttle” one, or it can be configured as an automated delivery service with customized buses and dedicated physical hubs.
This delivery service model is useful for companies that need to transport small parts within a relatively big space, or in modern cities creating a sort of fully automated shipping/delivery hubs for connecting wholesale shops and retails stores.

After this first Service Design session, I started a User Centered Analysis focused on the self-driving bus passengers needs. For designing a real accessible service, I defined only “analogue” needs excluding all the information/functions that a smartphone app could have. What you read is what my grandmother or a manager with a dead smartphone could need for using an autonomous bus.

What self-driving bus passengers need outside the bus

– Passengers need a purchase and reservation system that should be both digital (app), physical (street’s stops signs) and gestural (raising the hand for asking to catch the bus).
Here some examples of a simple bus stop sing with a call button (left) and an advanced stop sign with an integrated ticket machine and a digital screen (right).

SelfDriving_Bus_Stops_TicketsMachines_AntonioPatti

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Chatbots are contents, not conversations

After my first post about Facebook Messenger Bots, I continued my research because I understand the importance of Chatbots and Instant Messaging apps. Following a transcription of the presentation that I published on Slideshare.

The assumptions from where I started my reasearch are:

  • Users don’t want conversations. Users want pertinent and timely contents within the app that they use most.
  • Chatbots have the reason to exist because users don’t like to download lot of apps and because mobile sites are slow or difficult to navigate.
  • Chatbots are a communication channel with an interaction pattern in a sort of way similar to the natural language. They aren’t virtual sales agents.
  • Chatbots have the difficult mission to bring together contents and services within messaging apps.
  • The best chatbots performances aren’t based on conversations. Interacting with them requires new functions and a standardized command language.

So I can say that Chatbots are an important technology because:

  • they represent a way for engaging users within their favorite apps
  • they can replace apps and websites for simple and recurrent tasks
  • they are the only direct marketing channel comparable with the email
  • they revolutionize the smartphone’s push communication marketing
  • they are the entrance point for advanced data building programs
  • users interest in downloading branded apps is decreasing
  • mobile navigation sometimes is frustrating
  • users are accustomed in making Google searches in a conversational way

But this importance bring with it some threats:

  • chatbots can’t really understand natural language
  • chatbots can’t replace the all the other apps functions
  • chatbots could decrease the users curiosity and research capacity
  • chatbots will struggle for visibility
  • chatbots can’t wrong a lot of answers and they can’t ask too much questions
  • chatbots must care a lot about language, style, frequency and relevancy of their push contents
  • chatbots aren’t a branded channel

Chatbots are the future of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Direct Marketing for the following reasons:

  • because they deliver profiled offers and contents, receiving immediate feedbacks
  • because they are an effective support for the human-based customer care
  • because they will build accurate customers profiles analyzing the interactions and asking for information, ratings etc

Thinking about all these incredible opportunities, I examined the standard instant messaging apps user experience and I realized that Chatbots should have a dedicated set of functions that designed as following.

chatbot_dedicatedfunctions_ui_antoniopatti_1.jpg

At this point I tried to go practical matching my Chatbots functions and experience with some generalistic companies.

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Facebook Messenger’s Bots are direct, customizable and automated communication channels, not personal assistants

Reading on the web the new Facebook Messenger’s Bots reviews I confirmed my idea: human language is still too complex to understand by any kind of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Read “I Tried Shopping on Facebook Messenger. It Didn’t Go Well” by Lukas Thoms and “Facebook’s grand plan to simplify your life is off to a rough start” by Alex Heath.

So please, stop dreaming about a J.A.R.V.I.S.-like Bot. AI will never be like a personal assistant that knows everything about you, that understands the environment, your feelings and your needs. AI assistant will be for ever a digital system that gives complex and nice outputs just because someone coded all kind of linguistic inputs that a human can produce; this kind of assistant will never really understand what’s happening. The most advanced AI possible is the one that has the biggest relational and semantic database tested (manually!) by real operators (read “The Humans Hiding Behind the Chatbots” by Ellen Huet).

Natural language isn’t the key

Machines that understand some plain language commands and that can anticipate some users needs are possible, but computers that are able to understand all kind of phrases that a human pronounces, sorry, but aren’t near to come.

Like everybody us today can understand icons on expensive glass-plates called smartphone, in the same way we must create a simplified language for communicating and using Bots.

For me nobody wants to lose his time talking with a Bot even if companies would love the idea that millions of virtual and assertive sales people talk 24h/7 with customers. Instead, the most amazing feature of the Bots AI isn’t their humanity, but the fact that users can treat them without any courtesy, that they will memorize users tastes and credentials, that they will anticipate users needs thanks to some “natural language” commands and some Facebook profile analysis. 

All this doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t care about language per se, but that they should drive users to use a simplified language for the following reasons:

  • a simple language is easier to explain in a sort of tutorial during the first chats
  • a simple language is faster and more efficient than the natural one. If the number of taps for receiving an information on a chat is a way more than searching it on a website, the chatbot is going to fail
  • creating a sort of standard simplified language for all the Bots will ease exponentially their usage.

The users fruition model will be like the one that today drives sites like Yahoo Answers, Quora or the common FAQs pages where contents are organized and required using the “How to…” and “What is…” format.

Conclusion

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Tesla Model 3 design and market success

Internet has already posted a lot about the new Tesla Model 3. I want to say something since the launch’s day, but first to start writing down this post, I read dozens of articles and their comments for understanding exactly what happened in the automotive industry and what kind of innovation is really bringing the Model 3.

Why Model 3 is a design success?

Tesla built an incredible brand. Tesla is the youngest automotive company that consumers remember like the older and biggest ones like Toyota, Wolkswagen, Nissan, BMW or Daimler. But unlike them, Tesla made the miracle of giving a desirability aura to electric vehicles and it did it not only making fast, efficient and advanced vehicles, but even having the courage to revolutionize the design of its (future) best-selling model.

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How important is the Radio in your car? Radioplayer and BBC research

The recent research “Great cars need great Radios” conducted in UK, Germany and France by Radioplayer and BBC reports that:

  1. Essential: 82% of drivers would not consider buying a car without a radio
  2. Dominant: 75% of all in-car listening is to the radio, even in modern cars
  3. Frequent: 84% always or mostly listen to the radio on every journey
  4. Free:  90% believe radio should always be free and easy to listen to

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In-ear headphones touch gestures concept

During the last years I developed a strange professional syndrome.
Everytime I use an object I analyze usability and functions trying to learn or imaging improvements. Today the interaction between humans and machines is powered by all kind of sensors that can interpret imput like natural voice commands, objects movements, touch and hand free, etc.

Today I want to introduce you my concept for an in-ear headphones touch gestures. As you can see in the following gifs, I imagined to turn the headphones cables in a control device dedicated to the four most common commands used during the music listening: volume up, volume down, next song and last song.

For designing the in-ear headphones touch gestures I was inspired by the “traditional” touch pattern gestures and by the emerging smart clothing technology. I admit even that sometimes during my trainings or in a crowded metro I’d appreciated these gestures because I didn’t have how to switch that shitty song that everyone have on its library.

Following the in ear headphones touch gestures concept.

Volume up: thumb + index finger down on the right cable
volume_up_headphonesgestures_antoniopatti

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The inspiring “Driving Paradox”

I work in Digital Communication and I’ve worked on the functional & user experience design of websites, mobile applications, advergames, digital signage systems and info kiosks.

I love cars and motorcycles since when I was a child. I remember very well the “procedure” that my parents had to apply first to start our old Fiat 500, the incredible internal design of the Renault 4 of my neighbour and the unintelligible fashion of the Motobecane Mobyx parked in my garage.

back-to-the-future-delorean

I think that cars and motorcycles are the most impressive demonstration of the humankind power of imagination and adaptation. Imagination because who put together the technology necessary for an “autonomous run” of a 4/2 wheels object for me was an artists, not an engineer. Adaptation because driving a car or a motorcycle is one of the most complex mixture of unnatural gestures that we have on the earth.

That’s the point. That’s the Driving Paradox.

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