How can people and machines communicate with one another? This question has fascinated the automotive industry for decades, because robots and human employees have been working together in production processes for a long time. Thanks to technological progress, cars no longer consist only of a steering wheel, a gearshift, and pedals — they also have computers and displays. How should a car be constructed so that a driver can quickly handle all of these components without any problems, even in stressful situations? Finding the answer to this question is the job of 30-year-old Maxi Vogel. She was originally not the least bit interested in technology. Instead, she received her undergraduate degree in classic psychology. Not until she was working on her master’s degree in the area of “human factors” did she receive her first insights into engineering and information technology.
“At first glance, technology and psychology seem to be opposing disciplines. However, you can also look at it this way: I can apply my knowledge about the experience and behavior of human beings to the development of technical systems,” she says about her work. In concrete terms, this means answering questions such as the following: At what locations inside a vehicle should important information such as warning signals be displayed? How should a vehicle be designed with regard to its control elements and displays? What aspects of car radio controls should be kept in mind?
Vogel finds the answers to these questions together with her team, whose members have very diverse backgrounds ranging from mechanical engineering to media IT and product design. The team supports the development of new vehicle models from the initial concept to the final stages of production, and it is responsible for designing all the interactions between human beings and vehicles from start to finish.
I looked for a profession that I can imagine myself practicing my whole life without ever getting bored,” she says. “And I’ve definitely found it.