Evaluating In-Car Movements in the Design of Mindful Commute Interventions: Exploratory Study

J Med Internet Res. 2017 Dec 4;19(12):e372. doi: 10.2196/jmir.6983.


Background: The daily commute could be a right moment to teach drivers to use movement or breath towards improving their mental health. Long commutes, the relevance of transitioning from home to work, and vice versa and the privacy of commuting by car make the commute an ideal scenario and time to perform mindful exercises safely. Whereas driving safety is paramount, mindful exercises might help commuters decrease their daily stress while staying alert. Increasing vehicle automation may present new opportunities but also new challenges.

Objective: This study aimed to explore the design space for movement-based mindful interventions for commuters. We used qualitative analysis of simulated driving experiences in combination with simple movements to obtain key design insights.

Methods: We performed a semistructured viability assessment in 2 parts. First, a think-aloud technique was used to obtain information about a driving task. Drivers (N=12) were given simple instructions to complete movements (configural or breath-based) while engaged in either simple (highway) or complex (city) simulated urban driving tasks using autonomous and manual driving modes. Then, we performed a matching exercise where participants could experience vibrotactile patterns from the back of the car seat and map them to the prior movements.

Results: We report a summary of individual perceptions concerning different movements and vibrotactile patterns. Beside describing situations within a drive when it may be more likely to perform movement-based interventions, we also describe movements that may interfere with driving and those that may complement it well. Furthermore, we identify movements that could be conducive to a more relaxing commute and describe vibrotactile patterns that could guide such movements and exercises. We discuss implications for design such as the influence of driving modality on the adoption of movement, need for personal customization, the influence that social perception has on participants, and the potential role of prior awareness of mindful techniques in the adoption of new movement-based interventions.

Conclusions: This exploratory study provides insights into which types of movements could be better suited to design mindful interventions to reduce stress for commuters, when to encourage such movements, and how best to guide them using noninvasive haptic stimuli embedded in the car seat.

Keywords: autonomous vehicles; breathing; cars; driving; in-car experience; interventions; just-in-time interventions; mental health; mindful movement; mindfulness; stress; stress management.

MeSH terms

  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Awareness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Transportation / methods*