The future shape of digital cars
Digital information is increasingly becoming available on all aspects of the urban landscape, anywhere and anytime. Physical objects (c.f. the Internet of Things) and people (c.f. the Social Web) are increasingly infused with actuators, sensors and tagged with a wealth of digital information. Urban Informatics explores these emerging digital layers of the city. However, very little is known about the challenges and new opportunities that these developments may offer to road users. As we gradually spend more time using our mobile devices as well as our car, the tension between appeasing our craving for connectedness and road safety requirements grow farther apart. The aims of this paper are to identify (a) new opportunities that Urban Informatics research can offer to our future cars and (b) potential benefits to road safety. Urban Informatics research experts were grouped into seven teams of two to participate in a guided ideation (idea creation) workshop in a driving simulator. They were immersed into different driving scenarios to brainstorm innovative Urban Informatics applications in different driving contexts. This qualitative study was then evaluated in the context of road safety. There is a lack of articulation between Urban Informatics and Road Safety research. Several Urban Informatics applications (e.g., to enhance social interaction between people in urban environments) may provide benefits, rather than threats, towards road safety, provided they are implemented ergonomically and safely. This research initiates a much-needed dialogue between Urban Informatics and Road Safety disciplines, in the context of Intelligent Transport Systems, before the fast approaching digital wave invades our cars. The dialogue will help to avoid driver distraction issues similar to mobile phones use in cars. As such, it provides valuable information for future regulators and policy makers in charge of shaping our future road transport landscape.