Car Personalities Research

Car Personalities Research

Could an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system with a speech evoked personality change your relationship with your car? Alter your behavior? Would you like it more? Would it be easier or harder to use? Would a snarky or encouraging speech style make a difference? We conducted a preliminary 30 participant study using an experiential prototype that used three different speech styles designed to evoke different personalities: Neutral, Encouraging and Snarky.

What if…your car had a personality – would you be willing to take better care of it? Would having a personality make your interactions with an in-vehicle infotainment system (IVI) more enjoyable? Or might it cause you more stress and distract you from your primary task of driving? Would you trust a car with a personality more or less?

The car is a unique computing platform for long-term interaction with embedded agents. For this broad topic of research, we set up an initial study where we explored how people related to conversational agents with three different speech personalities exemplified in an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system.

Our results indicate that driving preferences are conservative in practice and were not strongly influenced by a brief exposure to our system; however reactions to the system were more nuanced than expected. We found on some significant results for initial evaluations of desired attributes for embedded agents (p<0.01) and for the ease of use (p<0.016), usefulness (p<0.05) and friendliness (p<0.05) of the prototype system. Additionally, we found a significant upgrade in gas choice (p<0.01) based on the agent making a recommendation.

These initial findings point to opportunities in the design space to develop a more persuasive, believable agent with whom drivers could build a relationship.


We developed an experiential prototype to communicate and evaluate the experience of three different embedded conversational agents in an IVI system. The visual assets and the content of the interaction were identical in all three presentations, the only dimension that varied in the different version were the personalities that were evoked with speech that was designed to be either Encouraging, Snarky and Neutral.


The application was built as a “Wizard of Oz” system that allowed the 30 participants to communicate freely with the embedded agent using natural language while the facilitator controlled the interaction with a wireless keyboard, creating the illusion of a functioning device.

We shared our initial findings with designers and developers during CHI 2013 to show wide variation in interpretation to our evoked personalities, the unintended inferred differences in trustworthiness and the overall conservative mindset that participants had towards driving preferences and practices.

Co-Author: Jennifer Healey













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