DrivingBuddy was an academic project-come-financial enterprise. I spent a few months after my IU HCI/d masters to productize DrivingBuddy. I asked for the help of local artist Jordan Rader who altered the buddy's appearance from a crash test dummy to a cowboy. The app was a media darling appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Herald Times, and various radio and TV programs.
DrivingBuddy was also the flagship product of my company Bloomingsoft. Since DrivingBuddy, I have created a number of iPhone prototypes using the same engine but different purposes. Those apps should come out *some day* when I have to time to get them as good as I want.
The initial sketches for DrivingBuddy were based around a direct remediation of the car actions: if the car took a hard left, a digitally represented car would also take a hard left. Heat spots would indicate turns, stops and starts that were "too hard" and an audible alarm would go off momentarily.
Following initial sketches, a functional prototype was quickly created to test out the interactions. Both the functional prototype and the interactions worked to some degree, but test participants were somewhat confused by the interface. The problem was data representation: there was too much data to decipher on-the-spot for the driver to accurately gauge what had happened. A chief design goal early on was to ensure the driver was not distracted by the device, which seemed likely to happen given early tests
Initial tests with the functional prototype produced findings that I would have not have experienced with a simple sketch:
From here, I reached out to help from fellow designer Matt Snyder. Matt mentioned that the screen should have one unifying element to both identify with the user on a personal level as well as quickly show the driver's progress. A human face came about as a natural choice for this representation: smiles indicating good driving, frowns indicating bad. A Crash Test Dummy seemed to be the most pertinent representation - personal yet non-human.
The design also incorporates a point system: good driving is rewarded with points, bad driving results in lesser points. Points translate to "dummy money" which could be spent in an AppStore shop.