Gen Alpha on Driverless Cars

NewTerritory go back to school

NewTerritoy recently visited Ashton St. Peters Church of England VA Primary School. Our Design Director Tim spoke to the students there about their hopes and dreams for autonomous vehicles. When it comes to driverless cars, a lack of imagination simply does not apply to 10-11 year-olds. The pupils of this particular school don’t want a faster car - they want an animal-car hybrid or a gaming-toilet combo on wheels…

We had printed out several worksheets featuring an outline of an archetypal driverless car, and asked the pupils to draw what they wanted from a driverless car experience. It became abundantly clear that what kids want is somewhat different to what us adults want. Not only that, but there were some very obvious female skewed ideas, male skewed ideas, and then some that applied to all.

What do girls want?

Many of the girls in the class focussed on animals and nature. In fact, several of the vehicles themselves took on animal-like appearances with pet facilities on board. One vehicle took on the guise of a moose, while others appeared to be modelled on a cat. Further to that, plants and natural materials furnished the interior of their vehicles, with technology taking a back seat.

In terms of what the girls wanted to do in their vehicles, their interior designs seemed to be tailored to comfort and relaxation, with many seating and sleeping arrangement ideas.

What do boys want?

Boys on the other hand, wanted to party, it seems. Almost all of the boys in the class focussed more toward sport, gaming and partying, with concept names such as ‘Games on Wheels’, ‘Party FC Car’, ‘Party! Time!’ and ‘Party Transport’.

As you can imagine, these vehicles were loaded with the latest in technology, from sensors to PlayStation 5s, free wi-fi, charging stations and electronically connected sports fields.

What do both girls and boys want?

You might think that those insights are somewhat expected, and for whatever reason, appear to fall into gender stereotypes. This is a subject for another day. For me the eye-opening insights come from where the similarities lie. Practically all of the children honed in on the environmental and social benefits of the vehicle, citing pollution and accident-free mobility for everyone as a core proposition and an absolute necessity in future.

Safety features appeared in few concepts however, just eight of the 24 pupils factored this into their concepts. It appears that the demanded trust and safety element so widely discussed in driverless cars are consigned to the adults, and to children trust is a given, they have other needs to prioritise.

Another similarity was their focus on the journey itself, with as little as five pupils featuring any sort of destination or navigation based features (perhaps because they’re used to the taxi of mum or dad), instead favouring concepts that compliment their enjoyment of the ride. 

Further to that, of the 24 pupils in the class, 16 of them wanted an in-car toilet and 11 wanted sleeping arrangements. A whopping 20 pupils had imagined eating and drinking facilities too.

As much as we discussed how short these trips might be, the pupils still planned for long trips. There are many studies that suggest that our perception of time changes as we get older, with time speeding up after our formative years. One might speculate that, to a 10-year-old, all journeys are long journeys, at least by their definition, no matter what the duration, and so toilets, beds, food and entertainment options are a must.

As the old adage goes; it's not the destination, but the journey that matters - at least to 10 - 11 year olds.

In the press

This work featured on E&T. Read their article here.

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