User Experience (UX) expert, Panos Konstantopoulos, has joined SBD Automotive as a Senior Technical Specialist. We managed to get a few minutes with him in his first week here to learn more.
Panos Konstantopoulos, PhD
• Job Title: Senior Technical Specialist, SBD Automotive.
• Previous Role: HMI and Displays Technical Specialist, Jaguar Land Rover.
• Facility Manager of driving simulation facility.
• PhD in Cognitive Psychology, Driver’s Visual Attention.
• Connect with Panos on LinkedIn or by email.
Hi, Panos. It’s great to have you at SBD Automotive. Let’s start with an easy one. Can you tell us about your field? What is UX?
Sure. There are many definitions, but the way I approach UX is to understand people’s interactions and to work with designers to create systems, usually digital, that are responsive, fun, and easy to use. The aim is to create premium and frictionless experiences.
Due to my education and experience, I mainly approach this from a Human Factors angle, always considering the cognitive, cultural and anthropometric perspectives.
How did you get started in UX?
Actually, my academic and professional path is all related to driving UX. My first degree was in Psychology, where I investigated the interaction of working memory and driving performance. Following on from that, I completed an MSc in Ergonomics and the integration of in-car systems. Finally, during my PhD, I extensively studied drivers’ visual attention and how they interact under different driving conditions and hazardous situations.
After the completion of my PhD I worked in academia, mainly in driving simulation. I had the opportunity to travel around the world and collaborate with the best driving research centers. Also, I was the facility manager, responsible for the development and delivery of a state-of-the-art driving research facility at University of Nottingham. After that, I was hired by Jaguar Land Rover.
Working at Jaguar Land Rover must have been interesting. What can you tell us about your role?
I had a great time at JLR. I started in electrical research as a Human Factors specialist and due to hard work, a great manager and supportive colleagues I managed to get two promotions in 18 months, becoming a Technical Specialist for HMI & Displays. I was responsible for strategy, developing an evidence-based approach with user-testing and continuous benchmarking, and advanced product creation.
What made you decide upon SBD Automotive?
I want my work to influence as many people as possible, and to really affect the automotive industry. SBD Automotive’s reach will provide an excellent opportunity for me to collaborate with the majority of vehicle manufacturers. Most importantly, we share the same vision for evidence-based practice and for providing the data needed for better business decisions.
My first week has been very interesting here, and I have been thinking about creating a whitepaper on automotive displays. An advantage for me personally is that I always enjoyed using SBD’s reports (for example, the ADAS HMI benchmarking), so now I get to read all of them, and even write my own.
What are you looking forward to in the industry? The release of a particular car or tech? The achievement of a goal?
I know that the next generation of JLR vehicles will be very exciting, but obviously, I can’t disclose any information. Audi is gaining momentum with very advanced in-car technology. Also, Google has great potential. I’m a big fan of Google, and it will be interesting to see where they go next.
Vision Zero for me would be the biggest achievement of the automotive industry (the multi-national road traffic safety project). It aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries resulting from road traffic accidents.
Is UX design keeping up with the technology?
It must! Although the fundamentals of interaction remain the same, customer expectations change. For example, Amazon’s Alexa has made people comfortable with zero UI, so this needs to be reflected in vehicles.
Poor UX ages a car. If I spent 1000 GBP to buy the latest phone, I want a smooth transition to my car. Moving people from A to B is no longer the only specification. I have my digital private space and I want to access it everywhere. If the car cannot do that, then it is old, even if I bought it last year.
If you could give one piece of advice to vehicle manufacturers, what would you say?
One of the people I have tremendous respect for is Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover. He said “if you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design”. Similarly, within the UX context, if you think user testing is expensive and time-consuming, you should look at the cost of bad UX, poor interaction models and the resulting customer satisfaction.
What advice would you give to people starting in your field?
I would paraphrase the architect Ove Arup, one of the great philosophers, in emphasizing 3 core values. First, quality. We must strive for quality in what we do. Only a job done well, as well as we can do it, adds value to the business and ourselves.
Secondly, human-centered design. We should not stop at the first solution that works. We should refine it to something that is elegant, simple and adds to the user experience.
Finally, find your expertise. We must be an expert in what we do, and collaborate with other experts to do quality work.
Do UX preferences vary much by region?
There is compelling evidence that indicates cultural differences in visual processing, attitudes to technology, prioritization of infotainment features, etc.
For example, in a recent survey that SBD Automotive conducted in six countries, with over 1000 respondents, we found cultural differences in CarPlay / Android Auto preferences, voice control usage, and attitudes towards in-car cameras.
Did you find this interesting?
You may also be interested in SBD’s Connected Car User Experience Evaluation reports, a series of six expert evaluations featuring the latest user experience developments in Europe and the USA. To find out more, please enquire below.