Ryan Powell of Waymo
Play • 23 min

In this episode, Aidan Simpson interviews Ryan Powell, Waymo’s Head of UX Design, about the company’s Early Rider Program and the challenges of designing during a technology paradigm shift. Plus, Powell unpacks the thinking behind how his team decides what details to include in the car’s interfaces so they foster trust with users. A few highlights:

On the challenge of replacing human drivers“I think there's some number out there that says more than half of all communication is nonverbal. When you don't have that human in the driver's seat, how do you recreate the [nonverbal] communication that takes place?”

On building trust with the passenger“I think there’s a fine line between providing the user with just the right amount of information versus overloading them or being intrusive. We think a lot about when we should try to draw your attention out of what you're doing in the car versus providing ambient information that's available in case you glance up and want to see something.”

On the value of quick prototyping“What's nice about the way that Waymo works is that my team and the engineers  all sit very, very close together. We're able to try ideas and get something into the vehicle on a weekly basis. We're able to get out and just hop in the car right outside the door,  go for a test drive, and try something out.”

Handy info and links for this episode:

Ryan Powell is head of UX at Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car project. Before joining Google’s UX Leadership team  in 2014, Ryan worked for Samsung, Microsoft, and Motorola developing consumer product experiences.

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