AR offers Tesla an innovative and compelling method to welcome customers to their new Model 3.
Tesla has a problem. Too many people are buying their cars and they are not getting the premium experience that previous Tesla customers enjoyed. With the release and subsequent production increases of the Model 3, Tesla is now making nearly 3x as many cars they did just a year ago.
"The delivery of the cars is where the investment is needed. We need to deliver three or four times as many cars." - Elon Musk
As they ramp up production, one of the curious bottlenecks which has come to light is the new customer onboarding and learning experience. Tesla can no longer afford to give each customer a 30 minute session with a salesperson explaining the features of the car. Tesla is actively experimenting with alternative solutions to this problem but so far has only left users unprepared and confused with their new car.
"No offense, 5 minutes is totally inadequate, especially for BEV newbies transitioning from a 20th to 21st century vehicle." - Tesla forum
It may well be the car of the future, but most of its customers are used to gasoline cars of the present, which function quite differently. A little direction at the beginning can make a big impact in improving the user's experience with an innovative new product.
This project started out as a group project which I lead. I have since taken the project further myself.
Click the image above for an interactive prototype.
To begin, I wanted to establish what Model 3 reservation holders were expecting from the delivery process. I also talked with those who had received their cars to see what their experience was. I received 30 survey responses and conducted 4 interviews.
One of these members is the president of the Ontario Tesla Owners Club and he provided insights into trends he saw from an even greater number of users. A few highlights became immediately clear:
- New model 3 owners needed more time with the car before delivery. There was just not enough time to rush people through in a timely manner that met both business and user needs.
- Most people do not read the provided materials Tesla sends via email.
- Videos produced by Tesla are helpful but buried on the Tesla support site so few interviewed were familiar with them.
- 60% percent of those surveyed would prefer an interactive app over a live salesman.
- 100% perferred either an interactive AR app or a salesman over other methods such as instructional videos.
- 90% percent have a compatible device for AR.
- Common themes of concern:
- Charging and battery maintenance.
- Center touchscreen.
- Construction quality of the car itself.
"People need time with the car at their own pace." - Ontario Tesla Owners Club
Initially, I had thought to use vision recognition and machine learning so that a new customer could point their phone at the actual car during delivery to learn about their car in an intimate and interactive way. After our initial research, it became clear they needed a compelling solution which the user could interact with before delivery, so that the user was familiar with the car before receiving it. The solution is to project a highly detailed interactive 3D model of a Model 3 in AR using ARKit on iPhone and ARCore on Android.
The Case for AR
You may be wondering, "Why not use traditional media like videos and text to teach people about their new car?" It's all about engagement. If people don't read the instructions, those instructions aren't helpful.
Why do car dealerships put their vehicles inside fancy showrooms? The experience, the intimacy, the engagement. It makes an impact. It makes the car approachable, attractive, and intimate to prospective buyers. Similiarly, AR allows for a far more attractive and personal learning experience for reservation holders.
User Flow and Wireframes
Based on our research, I deciced to focus on key features necessary to driving for the first time, learning about vehicle construction, and battery maintenance.
Detailed instructions on the center touch screen is intentionally left out, as I belive some kind of hand-off procedure from the user's mobile phone to the car computer would be more ideal in explaining those features. That will be explored in the future.
Prototyping and Usability Testing
The design went through several iterations, from sketches on paper to interactive prototypes built with Sketch.
Most of the effort was on experimenting with different overlays and UI patterns for the AR experience. I focused our testing on this to try and determine which interfaces would be more natural for someone to use as they learned about their car.
I am still working on the project, and have some alteranitive design solutions I am experimenting with. Some of the big changes you will see in the design below is the move away from cars in 3D space and instead a universal menu on the bottom in screen space. This insures the text is always readable even if the object is far away, and is easier to develop because there are less custom menus and cards which must be made.
I enjoyed stretching my creative muscles coming up with a compelling use case for AR, and feel confident this will help Tesla and their onboarding situation. I am actively pursing development of this concept, in particular bringing AR instructions to other objects and not just Tesla cars. While this project focused on projecting an interactive AR Tesla, the next idea is to use machine learning to recognize objects in the real world. That journey can be found at Relay