The first thing you notice about Google’s new self-driving car is how friendly it looks: Its face has ovoid eyes and baby-blue retinas, a shiny button nose, and a straight-line mouth–like a put-upon Pixar character who rallies to save the film’s hero. Awwwww!
This design strategy of cuddly familiarity was a concession to one glaring fact about driverless cars: To a public raised on taking the wheel, the very concept of ceding control is terrifying. So the industrial design itself had to be cuddly, approachable, and, in a word, nice. But by the same token, this isn’t enough of an aim for the product. People have to want it. Friendliness is just part of an equation that must include variables for the real experience of living with such a new piece of technology.