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Trusting in self-driving cars

An application, Toyota Guardian, that looks out for drivers throughout their ownership experience and builds a transparent and trusting relationship with Toyota’s technology today.


Gabriel Yeung, Grant Zou, Sarah Tong, Joshua Fan


Ideation, Prototype,

UX + UI Design

Time frame

Four weeks + Refinement

Scoping the Problem

In this project, we had the opportunity to be mentored by Chelsea Garber, the Product Design Lead from Inamoto & Co.  We were tasked with considering: “How might we ease people into trusting self-driving cars?” The scale of the problem was out of our range to tackle and therefore we had to scoped this prompt down into an achievable project given the time constraints, in a way that would make a measurable difference to Toyota today.

Tangible Preview of Tomorrow

Toyota is currently looking ahead into the future while fending off competitors in the present. We see an opportunity to improve and extend the value proposition of Toyota’s current products to their future concept offerings, providing an immediate and tangible preview of tomorrow. Our proposed application, Toyota Guardian, looks out for drivers throughout their ownership experience and builds a transparent and trusting relationship with Toyota’s technology today.

Focusing on Leaseholders

Our application is intended for all owners, however, we’ve decided to focus on leaseholders because leaseholders have guaranteed return visits throughout the different stages of their ownership. By easing leaseholders into trusting the credibility of Toyota’s technology today, they become a receptive audience more likely to value the semi-autonomous vehicle's technology, and consider purchasing one at the end of their lease in a few years time.


Our persona is an adapter, a younger individual considering the lower cost of leasing a vehicle in order to help them manage their daily routine. They may be unaware of the extent technology has developed since they last owned a vehicle, or how this technology could benefit them.

Present - Future

Before we considered how our persona would influence our customer journey framework, we recognized that the journey would take place over multiple years. We took this into account, by first grounding the project in the present, and in line with Toyota’s value of continuous improvement, evolve into the possible as Toyota’s technology develops.

Our customer journey begins from leasing at the dealership through ongoing use to finally returning for a new vehicle. Our intervention exists during the ongoing use stage when the vehicle is part of the customers' daily routine. Moreover, instead of identifying problems, we noticed three missed opportunities from entice to extend that could increase the perceived value proposition of Toyota’s vehicles. 

With overlooking autonomous features, owners may not recognize the new technology features has changed since their last vehicle lease. Due to the time gap, they may not be able to see the benefits of the safety features, as a result, this leads to the reluctance in trusting technology to support driver decisions.

Furthermorethis could extend to doubting how AI could make a difference in daily routines. All these contribute to cognitive overhead, where potential of autonomous technology enhancing the driver’s experience is not immediately understood or trusted.

Testing Assumptions

Throughout the sprint week, to test our assumption, we were given the opportunity to conduct user research at OpenRoad Toyota with their management team as we intended to tackle the dealership experience at first. However, we realized by focusing on the dealership and relying on the sales associate to increase customers trust in Toyota is not the best way to approach the problem. With this in mind, we’ve shifted our approach in tackling the ongoing use of a new vehicle, where we saw a better opportunity in gaining trust through a direct interaction between the user and the vehicle itself. We then brainstormed on the idea of the car being the "Guardian" to protect users, where a car is not just a vehicle for transportation, but also a protection for users to trust and rely on.

During the process, I was in charge of iterating prototypes and user flows. As a team, we decided on features that are most effective in supporting users when they are driving. The data from the car that is shown to the users have to be converted into digestible information that is easy to understand. The most challenging part is to prioritize the hierarchy of the information and showing visually of how the decision is being made by the vehicle so that users can fully understand the benefits of the car.


Design driven


The “Guardian” Concept

Guardian’s name is inspired by Toyota’s approach to self-driving cars, as well as connotes protection and guidance.




Humanizing Data

converted data into digestible information in the context of driving tasks using easy to understand language.

Why App

provide immediate notifications as needed prior to driving through personal on-the-go access.


Wireframes + userflow

Our intervention

Toyota Guardian seeks to address these missed opportunities by making Toyota’s technology meaningful, through providing driver insights, digestible vehicle diagnostics, and automated routines to help drivers make better decisions and focus on simply driving.


Toyota Guardian recognizes repeat behavior of the driver by the benefits of automation and predictive artificial intelligence, where it will suggest to automate certain aspects of the vehicle through notification. Users can then create their routines, such as preloading navigation and warming up the car onto the car’s onboard infotainment system. This helps minimizing the user’s memory load through recognition rather than recall. 

Post Drive 

After the user arrived to the destination, Toyota Guardian provides a drivers’ log of events, showing trip details such as destination and fuel consumption. In highlights, any notable events that trigger Toyota’s safety sensors is featured, with an incident report being generated as well as dashcam footage provided. This way, the user can fully understand the moment when the vehicle is making intelligence decision for them. 

User can also access to their driving history from previous trips and the option to save the report, as well as rewatching the highlights in the dashcam footages. 


As autonomous driving begins to disrupt traditional industries and shifting the economy towards subscription-based transportation services, we began to speculate how our Toyota Guardian could iterate and evolve in order to cope with the socio-economic implications. Toyota has expressed interest in the concept of blockchain smart contracts, allowing Toyota owners to rent out their vehicle’s unused time to earn money. With younger leaseholders, part of their motivation for leasing is because of the lower upfront cost and preference for subscription-based services.




We see an opportunity to evolve our Toyota Guardian app to connect Toyota’s interest in smart contracts with cost-conscious leaseholders, by enabling car sharing services. This would simultaneously help Toyota collect data and save owners money. Ultimately, it would use the receptive audience built up over the next two years through Toyota Guardian and introduce them to the new era of mobility consumption in a familiar and valuable way.




This project is an unique opportunity for us to work on a "wicked hard" problem with a super interesting client, Toyota. It was definitely challenging and exciting to try to solve a problem that was beyond our knowledge. In order to understand the new technology of automated cars, we spent the first week on catching up important aspects of the automobile industry and the dramatic growth in self- driving cars. I think the most challenging part of this project is narrowing down the problem and picking the right angle to target the problem since there are vary of reasons why people are not trusting the technology. We realize with such a big scale of problem, we can only approach it by taking "baby steps" and keep the solution focus in one specific area. 




Furthermore, I think it is very important to make sure the team is on the same page when it comes to working on a more complex project. I think the role of facilitator and decider in the team are the key to keep things moving forward and it is important for everyone in the team to trust each others in doing their tasks. Overall, in order for a project to succeed, I learn to not only work hard on my own but also being able to communcate with my team without taking things personally. 





During my spare time, using what I learnt from Avenue, I redesigned the interface to better present the functionality of what the Toyota Guardian offers. I began the process by reviewing the initial user flow in order to pin point the areas that need to be improved on, then I re-created the user flow to make sure the experience of using the application is holistic. Once then user flow was refined, I began to redesign the screens using the 8 points grid system. This method not only allows me to easily align the important information in the dashboard but it is also a good practice when it comes to designing any data visualization tools that are complex.


1 Show relevant information to user (missing details) 

2 Improve user experience between shared car owners

3  Reorganize dashboard information to keep things cohesive and understandable

4  Spacing of text (ex: how longer text would fit)

5 Visualizing the values that Toyota Guardian offers


Once I found gaps that need to be improved, I began to map out the flow of the existing interface and sketch out the potential information that needs to be extended. This helps me to reorganize the interaction step by step and recognize some of the areas need to be more visible for users to reduce users' memory load.  



1 Users should have the control to allow Toyota Guardian to access to their location information

2 Option to receive notification 

3 Entering personal information such as license plate number and car owner name to keep track of potential incident records 

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