John Kestner

Connected Dashboard

The car speaks, through Twitter and a hula girl


The Connected Dashboard is a design provocation I did in collaboration with IDEO. The challenge was to maintain a positive experience for Zipcar's growing and heterogenous user community, specifically addressing the friction that arises from a driver returning a shared car late. We favored using community carrots over corporate sticks.

The concept use the warmth and reach of physical and social networking channels to amplify the sense of community among a group of strangers, through the vehicle they share. Playing off of Zipcar's habit of naming its cars, we give them a voice as well through Twitter and connected dashboard objects—a dynamic hula girl and a 'happiness' gauge. This allows drivers to get, and send, the right information at the right time and place in order for the whole operation to flow—in a friendly, human manner.

Car as social object

Giving the vehicle a Twitter account provides a friendly mediating presence between drivers. It gives a useful context for customer requests—drivers can ask a car when and where it needs to be returned, or the car can tweet to its next driver that it'll be late. And it can build a stronger relationship between the service and customer.

Happiness gauge

Presaging the green leaves I can earn on my Ford if I drive well, this instrument aggregates how the car is feeling, based not just on driving behavior, but good community—getting a little depressed if it's dropped off late, or feeling better if it gets good reviews because the previous driver left it clean and topped off.

Dashboard mascot

This provides timely alerts and reminders without distraction while driving, removing the need to pull out a phone for the most common interactions. The hula girl or bobblehead wiggles harder as the return time draws near, and a time extension can be requested with a tap on its base.

My contribution

This was a month-long project to answer the client's challenge with a concept to spark conversation. Within those constraints, I started with online user research, synthesized it into insights and concepts, and presented those. I then designed the interaction flow and built prototypes around the strongest narrative, and produced a video to tell the story.

The hula girl was animated with Arduino, a stepper motor and a cam.