Imperial’s “People Pod” Design & Engineering project

On the 20th June, Martin Pett (Principal Technologist) here at the Transport Systems Catapult, was invited to attend the final presentations of first year’s students studying at Imperial College, London. The students were asked to design and build an interior for an autonomous pod and to build a full scale mock-up of their design. This is no mean feat considering they have only just completed one year of studies.

They could choose the function and operational/geographical area of their pod, but they had to consider and focus on the users and their needs. Materials available to construct their mock ups were limited to wood, cardboard and plastic tubing.

This resulted in a fascinating range of pod interior designs and the students must be commended for the quality and thoroughness of the concepts they presented. Their presentation skills, mock up construction and conceptual themes were all 1st class and it was really hard to pick a winner.

In the end the London People’s Pod with its wrap around augmented reality screens was selected as the winner on the main distinguishing fact that we could easily imagine it in use in the near future and the students had created a compelling and credible use case. That said, all of the concepts were really interesting and the project really highlighted the challenges of integrating wheelchairs and this driving a larger than ideal footprint on the road.

The project really highlighted the need to start thinking about the end users and how this will affect the design and functional capability of Autonomous Vehicles in the future.

We hope that the new VR facilities here at the Catapult will serve to answer these questions or at the very least narrow down the options. By using the VR systems we have built, we will be able to run user trials in immersive and completely reconfigurable interior and exterior concepts to measure how people feel and respond to different interface concepts.

We will also be able to configure the pod’s behaviour to react differently to a range of circumstances/scenarios and measure how users feel about these behaviours. For more information, please check out our Modelling and Visualisation Homepage

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