As someone who carries out a large amount of in-car testing, the pandemic has had a significant effect on my work over the last year and a half. During the first lockdown, no in-vehicle UX testing was possible at all. Working from home became the norm, and while others at SBD have returned to the office daily, weekly or monthly, depending on what works best for them, I've come to prefer my home office setup for day-to-day work, although it was initially challenging. But of course, when it comes to testing, for the most part, it's not possible to carry it out alone.
We began to get back into cars in June last year, but it wasn't easy: we had risk assessments, rigorous cleaning and sanitising procedures for the cars, along with mandatory masks and much hand scrubbing. On top of that, cars already delayed due to software issues had been pushed back yet further by the global shutdowns.
Being a global team in a global pandemic, with localised lockdowns in other countries (often not at the same time), we had to develop ways of assisting with testing remotely via video links, and rapidly train colleagues to help us out. Fortunately, our testing methodology was developed with this in mind and has made things far easier than they may otherwise have been.
2021 has seen things in a closer to normal state, but we've been dealing with some seriously buggy cars and still had to push the envelope of testing, in some cases hiring multiple cars, in multiple locations, to cover all equipment levels - sometimes due to the chip shortage, or to ensure bugs aren't confined to one vehicle.
It’s been busy. This month, we released our report for Tesla’s new Model S https://lnkd.in/eKsUNJHh. Two weeks ago, we finished testing the Hyundai IONIQ 5 in the UK, and last week, we completed testing of the new Lexus LS in Tokyo and Nagoya. We achieved this with multiple videos, twice-daily calls and many late nights from our colleagues in Japan due to the time differences. With our UX experts spread across 5 time zones, 4 countries, 3 continents, or 2 hemispheres - depending on how you want to count it - remotely meeting in 1 car to put it through its paces can be complicated, but it does mean we have a hive-mind of experience on hand.
Next week will see my first European client visit in over a year and a half. It feels as if the slow return to normality might actually be happening. While there are still likely to be a few bumps along the way, with the last 18 months certainly testing the testing… good preparation, flexibility, and choosing how and where we work - combined with a lot of different technologies - has stood us in good stead to challenge adversity.
Adam Jefferson UX Specialist SBD Automotive