The MORPH (mobility, ownership, relationship, personalisation, hospitality) research project was set up to answer questions that have been lingering in the future forecasting of mobility design and monetisation strategies for many manufacturers and industry pioneers including:

Mobility – What types of vehicles would fit if a sharing economy happens at scale in the automotive industry, what are the implications for vehicle design and service innovation, and how will it interact with the growth of autonomous vehicles?

Ownership – How would vehicle and service design be affected when customers move from owning vehicles to sharing vehicles?

Relationship – How will the relationship between user-vehicles and user-brands be reshaped?

Personalisation – How might vehicle design consider the use of personal data, interior materials, and customisation for different individuals during short-ownership periods?

Hospitality – What can vehicle manufacturers provide so that end users feel more connected with the brand? What new products or services can be created to enhance the sense of hygge/cosiness in the context of one’s mobility choices?

1.1 Key research findings

We summarised key findings from our literature review of over 70 different publications, from 351 online survey answers and three interactive workshops with 15 participants as well as from our concept design process.

Building trust between vehicle/brand and users

Trust must be built between the user and the product, and among users while forming temporary and long-term product relationships. We investigated what are people willing to share and with whom in our surveys and workshops in order to find a buy-in point for potential shared mobility users. The study shows that people are inclined to trust people they know when sharing more personal possessions but would widen the pool to others when sharing less personal items. Trust levels are highest for family members, followed by friends, co-workers, and neighbours with the least trusted group being top rated users (those that are highly regarded by the service or others). Therefore, providing shared vehicle space and services that are designed to facilitate and maintain trust would be a key for creating new vehicles and services for shared purposes.

Creating an integrated experience

The importance of brand relationship increases as value creation moves away from individual products towards the experience provided. Staying relevant to users and building identity through brand engagement is therefore key in a fast-changing market place. The majority of our research participants mentioned that convenience, access and low cost are the most important motivations for choosing to use shared vehicles. Vehicle services that can make an individual’s journey easier and link them to other activities before, after and during vehicle journeys would provide an integrated experience and therefore be more welcomed. Design strategies should focus on integrating in-vehicle features with services where appropriate to users according to preferences they provide.

Designing for personal customisation and social interactions

Our study shows that people have different requirements during journeys – some do not feel entirely at ease sharing rides with strangers, some want privacy and others prefer to interact with people. Vehicle and service designs that consider different needs or provide flexibility to let users rearrange their space would be ideal. The choices of material, data connection or disconnection, and modular vehicle components are key elements that vehicle manufacturers might find critical when exploring shared vehicle innovations. A design strategy should be considered to give the choice back to customers when deciding what type of shared vehicle space they would like to hire for a specific type of journey and purpose, and their mood at the time. 

Exploring non-monetary sharing market opportunities

Vehicle sharing started as a non-monetary community activity, and was later adopted for various business models. Looking back to the non-monetary models may help identify market niches, and new services that could build on the current customer journey. We looked at community activities and family vehicle sharing behaviours and found that lots of interior features can be redesigned for a family shared car in order to better fit the use of the car into each family member’s schedule. Other services include apps to help schedule the use among family/community members, check other passengers’ preferences to leave the car in a desired condition, and to link car use schedules with personal schedules to sync the activities.

Taking care of passengers’ physical security concerns and emotional needs

Our study shows the concerns people have with using shared mobility schemes are mostly about personal safety, with the percentage increasing when there are a majority of female participants participating in the surveys. Emotional durability (Forlizzi, 2003) was addressed in past studies and in our Emotional Tech project. We found that users’ emotions should be considered when a product (such as a car) can be used by multiple people (at the same time) to ensure each user has a positive experience. Physical security concerns can be very much influenced by a passenger’s emotional feedback from the vehicle environment, the purpose of the journey and the other passengers. When designing shared vehicles and services, considering passengers’ emotional needs in terms of eliminating their physical security concerns needs to receive more attention.  

1.2 Concept designs 

Following user investigation studies, we identified four design opportunities we would like to explore further with creative skills such as designing and visualising vehicle interiors and service touchpoints. The concept design phase is the core of the research project because it translates key research findings into concrete ideas through planning detailed vehicle spaces, user-vehicle and user-user interactions, and services to create a holistic experience for vehicle sharing customers. 

The final concepts represent four specific vehicle design directions with identified persona and scenarios as well as detailed in-vehicle interaction presentations. We tried to make the concepts as concrete as possible so that audiences can look at, feel or even touch them (by using two interactive app demos) and understand the design opportunities they present. We gave a name, a tagline and a short paragraph to introduce each concept and describe their key features and unique functional attraction.

NANO: Shared vehicles, safe spaces

Fourseater secure morphing pods

NANO shared taxi service with morphing interior design takes care of passengers’ emotional needs and physical security concerns. Enclosure materials and flexible interaction modes improve passengers’ trust of the vehicle, other passengers, service and brand.

MOSEY: Communities on the Move

Thirty people in a high speed mothership relaxing in single and four seat last-mile pods

This highspeed mothership transporting low speed interconnected pods provides social areas and private spaces for intercity journeys and door-to-door service. Long journeys become more comfortable thanks to a range of personal interaction choices plus the convenience of local taxi-like service.

ENROUTE: Mobile personal premium workspaces

A private desk and meeting space for two

A company leased vehicle for executive employees to work and meet clients on the go. The service customises interior modules according to users’ work requirements.  

SPAREVROOM: Multi-use family vehicle/living space

Adjustable spaces for family use at home and up to three on the move

As an extension of the family home, the vehicle provides a detachable mobile space with an adjustable interior to suit the needs and schedules of all the family. The interior can be customised to serve the needs of home, work and social life.

1.3 Key future research directions

The fact that most users want an affordable and high-quality experience pushes us to think beyond current cutting-edge technology offerings such as self-driving, self-parking and platoons. Divisions, seat arrangements, and supervision of passengers by drivers are traditional approaches to make passengers feel safe and comfortable. What design features should be considered when vehicle technologies are improving and passengers’ behavioural patterns may change? The project set out to explore passenger motivations and concerns about sharing vehicles with others as well as actual sharing behaviours and future expectations. New vehicle design and service proposals have emerged during the research and they present future directions for designing autonomous shared vehicles and services. We summarise four future research directions that can inform novel design opportunities for car manufacturers and mobility academics.

Exploring materials for morphing interior design

The NANO concept tried to explore interior designs to encourage passengers to comfortably share a journey with strangers, giving users options for interacting with each other or isolating themselves as they prefer. The vehicle has four doors to allow access to each passenger seat independently, and the seats’ material was defined to be flexible and extendable and able to be arranged by users. Future exploration of materials which can make people feel safe in a small room but still provide connection with outside space may prove of interest.

Designing flexible space arrangement

In the MOSEY concept, different seat arrangements were experimented with by considering luggage storage, communal areas and a quiet zone in a large high-speed vehicle. According to our user study, individuals have different preferences about using seats and shared spaces when on different types of journey. There is a need for more design attention that provides flexibility for users to be able to arrange their seats and surrounding space and these design opportunities can be prototyped on current train or subway interiors. 

Meeting demands for personal customisation

In our user engagement workshops, we asked the participants to draw their expectations on a vehicle floorplan and compare them with their current car layout. The most frequent aspect they addressed was customisation for specific purposes and types of journey / activities / personal behaviours. We explored this topic in the ENROUTE project with a corporate car sharing scheme where certain parts of the vehicle have modular sets of equipment and configurations to fit with the users’ in-vehicle activities. Additional opportunities could be explored for economy and premium services.

Looking for design opportunities for community sharing

Our SpareVROOM concept presents a family shared vehicle interior design and a mobile app to arrange activities and availability around a family’s daily schedule. Our research shows that there should be more business opportunities for community sharing where new types of rating system, new service models and vehicle sharing space for group interactions should be further explored. Especially post covid-19, people are mostly happy to share only with someone they know and trust. Therefore, sharing with acquaintances (family as the top choice in our study) might be preferred to strangers.  


Benkler, Y. (2004) Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as a Modality of Economic Production. The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 114: 273.

Botsman, R., & Rogers, R. (2011) What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live. UK: HarperCollins.

The Economist (2018). Why driverless cars will be shared, not owned. [Online] 20 October 2020)

Forlizzi, J., Disalvo, C. and Hanington, B. (2003) On the Relationship between Emotion,

Experience and the Design of New Products. The Design Journal, 6(2), 29–38.

Hamari, J. Sjöklint, M. and Ukkonen, A. (2015) The Sharing Economy: Why people Participate in Collaborative Consumption. Journal of the association for Information Science and Technology. 67(9):2047-2059.

Metz D (2016) Travel Fast or Smart?: A Manifesto for an Intelligent Transport Policy. London Publishing Partnership, London, UK.

Pine, B. J. and Gilmore, J. H. (1998) Welcome to the experience economy. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 76, Issue 4. Harvard Business School Press.

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Research Team and Acknowledgement

The MORPH core research team includes Dr. Jiayu Wu, Dr. Sheila Clark, Ashley Kennard, Daniel Quinlan, Katrine Hesseldahl and Sam Johnson. The service designers are Hyojin Bae and Nayoon Lee. The concept designers are Patryk Musielak (NANO), YoungJae Kim (MOSEY), Jiaheng Wei (ENROUTE) and Dinesh Raman (SPAREVROOM). 

MORPH was sponsored by Hyundai-Kia. The financial support enabled the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre of the Royal College of Art to conceive and explore new areas in transport experiences, vehicle design, digital technology integration, mobility systems and other research topics. We would like to thank Hyundai Motor’s German and Korean offices for their involvement in feedback and review during the research.

Special thanks to Dr. Cyriel Diels, Professor Stephen Boyd Davis and Professor Dale Harrow for reviewing and providing feedback during the research and for the final report.

Finally a special thank you to William Renel for designing the MORPH website, Jane Savory, Hannah Adeuya and Lulu Ishaq for managing the finance and logistics.

Launched in 2016 at the Royal College of Art, the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre (IMDC) leads research at the intersection of people, mobility and technology within a complex and changing urban and global environment.

The Royal College of Art is ranked the No. 1 art and design university by the QS World University Rankings, 2021.

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