‘Technical Design’ and Branding Collide to Create Audi Car-Sharing System

Design firm Kram/Weisshaar teams up with the automaker to create a UX- focused ‘micro-sharing initiative’

Disruptive digital applications for ride-sharing and car-sharing technologies have been a growing trend – mainly created by smaller garage and incubator based technology startup companies, rather than design firms.

For a refreshing, and perhaps needed change, design studio Kram/Weisshaar recently teamed up with Audi to “technically design” and develop a car-sharing initiative to encourage drivers to share their cars – with a focus on design and special attention to user experience.

“Developing a virtual product and process like unite involves financial product design, aggressive iterative testing and development of hard- and software, user interface design, communication design, art direction of ad campaign and dissemination strategy and so on,” explains Celemens Weisshaar.

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Audi approached the design firm with the challenge of creating a brand new model of micro-sharing that would reinvent the business model of car ownership.

Over the course of a year, designers at the firm developed an app and a beacon system that allows groups of users to book access to a shared vehicle that recognizes individual users.

Users are able to create reservations for specific periods of time, check the car’s current location and fuel levels, and a 24/7 hotline also provides emergency support via the application, along with a dedicated social chat platform that allows each group of users to communicate between themselves.

“Each unite member gets a personal Audi unite beacon, part of an in-car system that recognizes when unite members are in the car, allowing for seamless processes and easy cost-sharing,” Weisshaar says.

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Hidden in the body of the car is a small computer, that connects remotely to each driver’s “beacon” (a small, black, Bluetooth-based keyring tag). The tag contains a ‘digital signature’ that is unique to each user and keeps records of car usage.

Each user receives a monthly bill for their portion of costs related to maintenance, cleaning, tire replacement and insurance as well as fuel usage and traffic charges based on individual mileage.

Launching out of Stockholm with a small group of cars and 38 local drivers, the initiative allows groups of up to five people to share one Audi car using a booking app.

“… We have from the beginning been as much a tech company as a design firm and we are capable of iteratively developing integrated tech solutions along with the product and graphical user interface design, as well as the communication around the project,” adds Weisshaar. “Some of these aspects we don’t communicate in the design world because it tends to confuse people.”

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The studio also designed the media campaign and branding for the launch of the Audi unite program, with billboards posted on Stockholm’s transportation system.

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