Projects /

Auto UX Concept for General Motors

Making mass-market Electric Vehicles (EVs) more approachable through intuitive animations, considerate interactions and a reimagined 'Dog Mode'

auto ux header


General Motors approached our cohort with a problem statement for each of their 3 vehicle segments: Mass-Market, Performance and Luxury. We picked the first one, met the stated requirements and then added a few ideas of our own, including intuitive gestures, visualizations to better convey EV-specific concepts, reimagined space-efficient climate controls and a twist on the traditional Dog/Pet Mode. We used advanced Figma prototyping techniques including component variants, variables and conditional flows.

My Roles: Interaction Designer, Graphic Designer, UX Designer

Timeline: Feb 2024 - Apr 2024

Team Members: Vivek Selvaraj

Tools Used: Figma

The Problem

GM's main ask was:

“After a vehicle is purchased, how can we add value to the user with a new feature?”

problem statement slide

Problem Statement for Mass-Market Vehicle Segment. Courtesy: General Motors

So we brainstormed several ideas, researched the competition, solutions devised by tech giants such as Apple and Google, and GM themselves, and came up with the ideas depicted below.

Our Ideas

1. Dog Mode

Wait, what even is 'Dog Mode'?

Initially introduced by Tesla inspired by an X (Twitter) user's suggestion that they have a way to briefly leave their pets safely and comfortably in a car, Dog Mode essentially does the following:

dog mode slide

What is Dog Mode? Courtesy: General Motors

Our Goals

Through Dog Mode, we intended to:

Competitive Analysis

Since this is a relatively new feature more commonly seen in Electric Vehicles, we drew inspiration from some of the biggest current names in North American EV manufacturers: Tesla and Rivian.

Tesla's Take

Via Pinterest

  • Simple, clear message for bystanders
  • Shows current climate control temperature setting

Rivian's Take

Via Joshua Bravado Mascarenas on Youtube

  • Dog mode is termed as 'Pet Mode', which is more inclusive
  • The display shows both the temperature at which the climate control is set, and the actual in-cabin temperature.

After combining ideas and principles from these implementations (and adding an idea of our own) we came up our spin on the feature.

our dog mode demo

Introducing: Samaritan Mode

When a bystander thinks something needs the owner's immediate attention, they can scan the QR code displayed on the Pet Mode Screen and are redirected to a web application. They can either send an anonymous 'nudge', or a custom message with photos.

Samaritan view 1

If they choose to send a custom message, they would have a text box and a 'take photos' button to send to the owner. The 'take photos' button ensures that only photos taken by the bystander through Samaritan Mode are sent through the portal. This allows for minimization of spam.

Samaritan view 2

Once the Samaritan sends the message, the vehicle owner will receive a push notification from the companion smartphone app on their device.

Samaritan view 3

Edge Case: Vehicle battery low / battery has run out

Tesla considers a case where the owner enables Dog Mode but their car's battery goes below a threshold. They send a push notification to the owner's smartphone warning them of the vehicle's current battery level and reminding them to check on their pets.
We incorporated this and an additional case of the vehicle's battery completely running out, where the windows will be slightly opened prior to battery drain to provide for ventilation for any pets inside of the vehicle at the time.

Low vehicle battery notification

2. Visualizing Regenerative Braking

The world is slowly, but surely adopting EVs over traditional Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) vehicles, but this shift is still in its infancy. As a result, there are several concepts and terminologies that owners transitioning from ICE to EVs aren't always familiar with. Some examples include measuring a vehicle's fuel capacity in Kilowatt-Hour instead of Gallons of fossil fuels, instant torque and a lack of a traditional engine as electricity from the battery is directly sent to individual motors that turn the vehicle's wheels, and regenerative braking.
We set our sights on the latter as we found it to be one of the most obtuse concepts to grasp for traditional drivers, and aimed to make it more visually intuitive through the vehicle's instrument cluster.

What is Regenerative Braking?

Ever notice in films that when cars come to a sudden stop, their brake pads are often depicted as red hot? This is because the brakes essentially apply friction to the wheels to slow them down and eventually stop them, which releases a lot of heat energy. But in case of EVs, electric motors attached to the wheel can be turned the other way to essentially recover some of the kinetic energy lost in the form of heat and be sent back to the vehicle battery to recharge it.
Simply put, braking can charge your vehicle battery.

So how do we visualize such a complex idea without words on an instrument cluster?

Our Solution

We came up with a J-shaped gauge that aimed to illustrate the power that's being delivered from/to the vehicle by having the gauge run from -25% to 100% on the right hand side. The -25% section essentially depicts that there is a negative amount of power being delivered by the vehicle i.e it is receiving power. Finally, we have the vehicle's battery gauge with range information situated close to the regen section, and an animation that illustrates a direct relationship between braking and the vehicle's battery level increasing.

This is what it would look like if someone applied brakes while driving our concept EV:

Through feedback from test users and GM experts, we were able to validate that this visualization was at least somewhat intuitive. We were also able to slightly gamify the process of regenerative braking, as there is a way to maximize the amount of energy recovered through gentle braking, which is an acquired skill.

3. Drag Interaction-based Climate Controls

Why Touch-Drag Stuff in the First Place?

GM's Problem statement constrained us to just two screens with specified dimensions: the instrument cluster and the center display. Thus, we had to find a way to ensure that:

In our pursuit of meeting these goals, we drew some inspiration from iOS's Control Center:

Courtesy: Rhea Mirani

We also realized that implementing a draggable element that expands when a user interacts would save on space otherwise required for buttons to manipulate said controls.

We also prototyped draggable components for more discrete values (such as incremental levels and non-numerical inputs)

4. Beam to Cluster

Picture yourself driving while interacting with a specific menu on the center display, say navigation. Now you think to yourself that it'd be really cool if you could have a 'widget-like' condensed version of the navigation window within the instrument cluster so that you don't have to look away from the road for too long. But the only way you can currently pull the widget up on the cluster is to use the steering wheel controls to navigate through an obscure cross-bar style interface, switching between menus till you hopefully land on the right one?
We intended for this feature to be able to adopt the gesture-based mental model that our smartphones have taught us, and adapt it to the automotive world.

The Inspiration

We were inspired by a button we found interesting within the interface of GM's own Chevrolet Blazer EV 2022: the 'Add to Driver Display' button. Here is a demo of that feature:

Video Demonstrating the 'Add to Driver Display' Feature on the Chevy Blazer EV 2022 (Courtesy: GM's YouTube)

However, we believed that this button:

This is why we came up with the following flow:

Scenario: You want to 'beam' the navigation widget to your instrument cluster, followed by music controls.

5. Companion Smartphone App

A companion smartphone app is something that GM is currently actively iterating upon. Ever since they announced dropping of support for Apple Carplay and Android Auto, they've been improving their home-grown OnStar OS and companion smartphone applications rapidly.
Aside from essential glanceable information and vehicle controls, we wanted to dabble in a little bit of aesthetic discoverability with the 'half car motif'. By only showing one half of their vehicle, we want the user to indulge in their natural curiosity and attempt to find the other half by swiping, thus being rewarded with even more information, menus and controls. This is what our vision looks like:

Companion Smartphone app 1
Companion Smartphone app 2


This project was one of my final deliverables as a graduate student with the MSI program at the University of Michigan, and I believe that I really came into my own as a Designer through this opportunity. I learned a ton about interaction and graphic design (specfically in Figma). I also mastered and employed several Figma concepts as I worked my way toward visualizing these features, including 'components', 'variants', 'variables', 'conditional flows' and setting up a consistent style guide.