Bosch-HMI Infotainment for Elderly Drivers


An Automotive human-machine interface ( HMI ) design project aimed at designing infotainment systems in low-cost automobiles for elderly drivers in the Indian context.


Elderly drivers ( age > 65 years ) face many difficulties in driving due to increasing physical, cognitive and psychomotor disabilities. With the increasing travel needs and poor infrastructure, there is a greater need for effective Human Machine Interfaces in personal automobiles. The project is aimed at following an end to end design process to come up with the Infotainment System for these elderly drivers.

My Role

I carried out research in two major cities Bangalore and Hyderabad. As a part of design research, I have observed the driving habits of Elderly drivers, interviewed them to gain insights into their information consumption, usability patterns. I have visited several Infotainment Retailers and Service Stations to record the buying patterns of the elderly drivers. I have given extensive guidelines considering the Human Factors and Ergonomics on Visual / Physical and Cognitive disabilities. I have generated several concepts and developed prototypes for the selected few.


Studying elderly driving behaviors. Observing Infotainment System Trends and New technologies in Automobiles. The project was submitted as a design document to Robert Bosch HMI team and submitted as a poster for the International Institute of Information Design ( IIID ) 2010 Expert Forum on Traffic and Transport in Vienna.

Domain Study

Being relatively new to the domain of automobiles and designing interfaces to the infotainment system I had to do an extensive domain study. Infotainment is a portmanteau ( blend word ) of Information and Entertainment.
Information in automobiles is classified into :
- Information from the automobile intended for the driver ( eg: Speed, RPM, Fuel level etc )
- Information as a feedback or acknowledgment of actions ( Turning Indicators On, Wiper etc )
- Secondary Information of auxiliary functions ( AC, Temperature control, media etc )
- Warning or attention seeking information ( Battery low, Seatbelt warning etc )
- Entertainment is more about Media, Music, Bluetooth connectivity, Navigation etc.
Some of the innovations in the recent times are :
ADAS: Advanced Driver Assitance System which includes features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning etc.
Connected Cars: The cars connected to each other and with the cloud. A lot of applications can be built on this to enhance safety and better navigation.
Every year new features are released embedding new technologies, innovative designs and smart applications.

Understanding Indian Elderly Drivers

The aging of human brings the progressive slowness of behavior. The ability to perform continuous movements of complex skills decline and coordination is disrupted. Also the loss of muscle strength, endurance, decrease in the range of joint movements and reaching distances are major factors responsible for age-related motor limitations.
Some of the major disabilities in older population are
Acuity: the ability to make visual discrimination. To perceive detail in stationary objects and in moving objects.
Accommodation: It is the ability to focus on objects at different distances from the eye. When reading from a portable device like a mobile or book they often move the device to appropriate distance from eye optimizing focus. This they cannot do with fixed displays like dashboards and display screens.
Adaptation: Adaptation is the way the eye changes its capabilities between very low and normal illumination levels. Driving at night becomes very difficult.
Perception of Depth: It is very difficult for elderly people to integrate the sources of information rapidly and may have problems with perceiving depth.
Auditory: The general effect of aging lead to progressive loss of hearing high-frequency sounds. They would need high-intensity sounds to be heard.
Motor Capabilities: Poor movement and hand-eye coordination is a major difficulty associated with driving. Arthritis causes elderly drivers to refrain from driving too.

Need For Mobility

For Indian elders, mobility has become very important with increasing nuclear families and urbanization. Driving to destinations without depending on others has become common practice. With increasing health disabilities in vision, depth perception, motor, and cognitive capacity self-driving become a challenge. Better car HMI design is essential where the car adapts to the driver and help in better and effortless driving.

Relationship Structure

After the domain study, I have done extensive brainstorming on elderly drivers and the experience of driving. I have summed up the data from domain study and the personal experience on the topic.
I created affinity maps, based on the keywords and categories. I then tried to give it a structure giving me a big picture and thus helps me find the missing links to uncovered areas. Natural environment holds the infrastructure which is responsible for the technology to grow and sustain. Upgradations in the technology are mainly the increasing changes in the infrastructure. Technology layer has a hold on the enormous interactions that are possible between the driver and the car.

Design Research

I did the ethnographic research with the main purpose to study the challenges faced by elderly drivers in the Indian scenario.
Also, I could gather the insights and identify design opportunities. Mostly I have adopted the qualitative research methodology, where I conducted interviews and observed drivers in their natural environment.
Some of the observations are :

Inability to sense the backward motion of car on sloped roads and traffic signals. When stopped at traffic signals, elderly drivers while on the Neutral gear, were not able to sense the car was moving back. They also had difficulty in using the handbrake or clutch to maintain the car still in neutral gear. Also, it is difficult for them to shift the gear and remove the handbrake simultaneously.
Poor front and rear judgment. Most of the elderly drivers find it difficult to assess the dimensions of the car while maneuvering in the traffic. This leads to accidental bumps and dents on the cars. There is a need here for a system to show clearance or better visibility.
Parallel parking is a big challenge for most of the elderly drivers. Again this can be ascribed to poor judgment and lack of visibility. Also, parallel parking needs extra flexibility and cognitive capabilities to maneuver easily.
When asked, most of the elderly drivers prefer to drive hatchbacks than sedans or SUVs for sake of maneuvering complexity and easy judgment. Also, hatchback being economical, most of the elders prefer them even though they are not safe compared to other vehicle categories.
Elderly drivers also face difficulty at STOP and PROCEED scenarios mostly at traffic islands and intersections. Since it requires depth perception and the ability to perceive objects in motion relative to their distance, elderly drivers find it challenging

Personal Interviews with SMEs

Interviews with few Subject matter experts ( SMEs ) gave me a thorough understanding of the users ( elderly drivers ) choices while buying a car and their preference for infotainment solutions. Most of my interviews were with the general manager of Accessories department at RNS motors Pvt Ltd Hyderabad, Best Cars Pvt Ltd Bangalore and Suraksha Motors Pvt Ltd Hyderabad. Elderly drivers rarely opt for navigation systems.
In Indian scenario, the navigation systems are not fully evolved and elderly drivers find it complex to navigate using such aids. They would still prefer hand-drawn maps or ask others for directions. Most of the accessories elderly drivers opt for are regarding safety and security of the vehicle. Powered windows and remote locking is preferred for their ease of use.
Elderly drivers wish to have simple interfaces for the entertainment dashboards. They use minimal features such as FM and would not buy expensive media systems. Interview with Senior Engineer at Car Service Station Usually, elderly drivers request the clutch to be smooth for the reasons of knee pain resulted from high traffic conditions where they have to use very frequently. Most of the owners of diesel variant automobile complain about a hard clutch. Aerodynamic models of new cards do not have finders and often elderly drivers find it difficult to judge on the road.


Problems Identified

- Driving at intersections is one of the key problems because of difficulty in motion perception.
- Front and Rear judgment while driving and parking.
- The complexity of information in the contemporary dashboards and navigation system.

Design Opportunities

An alternate system to manage information inside the car
A simple navigational aid for elderly drivers in Indian scenario
Automated mechatronics inside the car for better reachability
A system to assist elderly drivers at intersections

Concept Sketches

An alternate system to manage information inside the car
A simple navigational aid for elderly drivers in Indian scenario
Automated mechatronics inside the car for better reachability
A system to assist elderly drivers at intersections

Finalized Concepts and Feedback

An alternate system to manage information inside the car
A simple navigational aid for elderly drivers in Indian scenario
Automated mechatronics inside the car for better reachability
A system to assist elderly drivers at intersections


After speaking to engineers I came to know many that there are standards for an automobile which we need to consider. For example, there have to be certain hard buttons on the dashboard for emergency and cannot be replaced completely by soft buttons or screens Some of the concepts are way too expensive and cannot be a viable option to include in economical automobiles.

I thank Dr.Bibhudutta Baral, Mr.Prashant Helady, Mr. Guru Mallikarjuna for giving the opportunity to visit the facility of BOSCH Automotive HMI department at Bangalore.