Hybrid Electric Vehicle Interaction for Ford Motor Company

Creating digital dashboard features that cater to drivers’ wants and needs

Henry Ford and his dream of bringing cars to the common man has evolved from the introduction of the Model-T in 1908, to a billion dollar industry with brands and plants across the world. With roller coaster swings in oil prices and a consumer-driven market demanding more hybrids then ever, Ford asked IDEO to help it understand the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) market and uncover ways to connect users with a unique HEV driving experience that could be implemented across automobiles and brands.

Working closely with the Ford design team, IDEO set out to understand what the HEV driving and ownership experience means for current and aspiring HEV drivers. Setting off for cars, homes and garages for interviews and observations across the US, the team uncovered what the core of drivers desired from their hybrids: a common sense of freedom. Like the Ford brand itself, driving a HEV enables a spirit of freedom, but unlike the freedom of Ford’s yesteryear, HEV owners desired freedom from ideas and issues like foreign oil, traffic jams, and chaos, while still yearning for a sense of freedom around time and choice in their driving experience.

The team’s field research led to a deep understanding of the consumer, which informed an ownership engagement framework that illustrates the driver’s use and ownership journey. The framework helped demonstrate how HEV drivers are engaging with their cars, from simply understanding them, to other levels of engagement that include informing, educating, practicing, advising, evolving and finally supporting the driver. The framework, plus the insights from the research, led to 18 opportunity areas, which informed hundreds of ideas, 109 concepts, and ultimately 21 unique digital dashboard speedometer cluster features that were created, prototyped and refined with the Ford team.

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Project date: 2009