Method Podcast, Episode 14

Waymo’s Head of UX Design on building trustworthy interfaces for self-driving cars

In this episode, Aidan Simpson interviews Ryan Powell, Waymo’s Head of UX Design, about the company’s Early Rider Program and the challenges of designing during a technology paradigm shift. Plus, Ryan unpacks how his team decides what details to include in the car’s interfaces so they foster trust with users. Want to learn more about the journeys and creative decisions of designers at Google? Subscribe to the Method podcast on Google Play, iTunes, RSS, or Spotify.

A few highlights:

On the challenge of replacing human drivers “I think there's some number out there that says more than half of all communication is nonverbal. When you don't have a human in the driver's seat, how do you recreate the [nonverbal] communication that takes place?”

On building trust with the passenger “I think there’s a fine line between providing the user with just the right amount of information versus being intrusive. We think a lot about when we should try to draw your attention out of what you're doing in the car, versus providing ambient information that’s available in case you glance up and want to see something.”

On the value of quick prototyping “What’s nice about the way that Waymo works is that my team and the engineers all sit very, very close together. We’re able to try ideas and get something into the vehicle on a weekly basis.”

Handy info and links for this episode:

  • Waymo began in 2009 as the Google self-driving car project
  • Waymo’s Early Rider Program: Launched in Phoenix, Arizona in 2017
  • Waymo 360: An interactive 360-degree video showing a self-driving car’s POV
  • Kitt: A self-driving car from the classic 1980s TV series Knight Rider

Ryan Powell is head of UX at Waymo. Before joining Google’s UX Leadership team in 2014, Ryan worked for Samsung, Microsoft, and Motorola developing consumer product experiences.