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Clarifying the scope : Assume we are a tier 1 OEM supplying stereos to car customers. Why are we designing the new stereo – product refresh, new market segment (luxury car, entry level car, medium range car) , a particular geo, targeting a particular car company in mind… etc

Assuming it’s a product refresh targeting USA market targeting mid segment with no company in mind.

Target market
• Mid car segment
• Product refresh next gen cars
• All car makers in mind but specifically target Japanese car OEMs.

Who would use the product?
• Men and women aged between 16 – 65/70
o Consumers
o Service men and women – ignoring for time sake

Some of the top use cases:
• Consumer :
o Basic use cases: next level use storied can be talked about
 FM/AM radios
 Satellite Sirius XM
o Streaming services: This is latest stuff ppl don’t listen to music anymore from CDs, so streaming is going be to big use case
 Pandora
 iTunes
 Amazon music
 Play music
 Spotify
 YouTube Audio
o Ability to play music stored on a phone through BT/USB
o Play music from a USB stick
o Play podcasts using podcast apps
o Play podcast from phone
o Imp strategic /differentiating features:
 Integration of voice assistants – will pick top 3 – Alexa, Google Assistant and SIRI.
o Imp feature – FOTA (firmware update over the air) – so chinks can be fixed when the car is connected to a WiFi.
o Navigation – Stereo and Navigation are closely intergrated because of using the same screen but for our discussion I am going to assume we are not touching it
o Communication – communication and stereo also integrated because sharing the same display but we will ignore it for now. It is assumed handsfree calling is supported.
o Back up camera – not including in our discussion

Designing the product:

• Design guiding principles:
o Safety first
o Minimal distraction – when the car is moving only voice driven commands will work
o Ability to connect a WiFi
o Balance the no of buttons and usability
o Voice driven UI
• HW –
o Assuming a 6-8 inch touch screen with a good resolution. Some properties:
 VISIBLE in day light with contrast adjusted dynamically
 Touch enabled
 HW buttons to navigate
 Controls on the steering
• Use case implementation:
o FM/AM/Sirius XM –
 one button which pressed again and again will rollover 3 options and select the right source
 scan knob – manual scan by rotating the knob… touchscreen shows all the FM stations in the range – select using the knob or touch
 remember the last source and next time car starts play that

o Voice driven UI –
 Ask user to connect to WiFi to use voice assistants.
 In settings save favorite VOICE assistant out of the 3.
 offline voice recognition engine with limited capability
 On steering a button to prompt for command – it can be preempted for command…. Say a command such as “ play FM 89.5” or “play Sirius XM’.. “play FM”
o Stream from phone –
 Streaming can be supported in a number of ways – BT/Cable
 Release APIs for 3rd party developers to easily use Car stereo.. example youtube could use the APIs to play youtube in audio mode only on the car. Win – winfor both both… can get in some revenue sharing arrangement
 Will also work with voice command if one time permission is given
o In next phase I will implement – other features. And can elaborate on a particular feature if interested.

Summarize – next gen stereo with cutting edge features including touch, WiFI connectable, voice driven menus, seamless connectivity to mobile phone and concern for safety.

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Thanks for the answer. You follow the structure of the answers well and that’s really important. My feedback would be around the use cases and features. I would have listed a couple out of box use cases and ideas as a way to present my creative thinking abilities. You want to list ideas that have not been implemented yet.
I would also followed the features section by an analysis of the ideas from an impact to customer and cost of ineplenntatki perspective.
Hope it helps.
Question Bijan. In answering such question how do we balance traditional/basic use cases vs innovative new ones? I wanted to ensure basic use cases are covered and did not leave much time for exciting ones (imagine an actual interview).

A new product first has to ensure basic use cases are met before providing advanced functionality.
You’ll want to focus on more innovative/new features rather than basic ones. The basic ones are already built by others and by listing them, you’re not showcasing your skillset. You can briefly describe what the product does today as a way to list out the basic features.
The interviewer wants to see you be able to drive the roadmap of a product by coming up with new use cases / features. What sets you apart is new ideas. Hope it helps.
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I would first ask why we are designing a new car stereo. Let’s assume the new car stereo is being designed to enable a better integration with new services available because of the existence of mobile. I would define my target market as the following:

– City cars (SUV, Sedan, convertible, etc)
– A car that’s already launched the first version of their smartphone friendly stereos and support iOS and Android for cars

As of 2018, the stereo hardware is just becoming a touchscreen that runs the OS provided by Google and Apple. So I will assume that while the hardware is standard, we are working with either of the platform providers (google or apple) to design the next car stereo platform.

When I think about the needs of users of stereos, a few unique ones come to mind:

– As soon as driver sits in the car, they would like to be recognized so that they don’t have to do any set up of the stereo

– They are in different mood depending on the time of day and type of ride (e.g. drive to work vs. driving towards cottage)

– They access their music / podcasts / audiobooks / etc via their smartphone apps with multiple clicks, which are dangerous to access while driving as they take away attention from driver

– They might be driving late at night (feeling sleepy) and need the stereo to help them stay awake

Now, here are a few features I can think of for this new stereo. I should mention that I’m assuming the stereo will have the basic functionalities of a mobile friendly stereo such as integration with iOS and Android (may new cars in 2017 offer such functionalities). So, basic functionalities such as Siri integration have already been implemented:

1) Detect driver / passengers as they enter the car (you can leverage beacons data for that) and immediately make available their faovorite media and present relevant content

2) Offer a car media centre that aggregates all content that is usually consumable by drivers while driving and present in the screen in an easy to use way to reduce number of clicks to play a music / podcast / audio book / etc. e.g. list podcasts, music, favourite radio channels, audio books all in one place to make it easy for user to discover their content

3) Leverage historical data and machine learning to predict user’s interest in media based on time, day, and rout and suggest the right content to the driver / passenger

4) If driver is driving late at night and is listening to soft music, suggest to play songs that help driver stay awake

5) Enable privacy feature to ensure recommended contents are only presented with person’s permission if there are more than one person in the car (use voice sensors, door sensors, or beacons to determine number of people in the car)

Here is how I would evaluate the new features based on impact on user and cost of implementation:

1- high value, low cost
2- high value, high cost since we need to integrate with various services and sign agreements
3- high value, medium cost
4- low value (doesn’t happen very often), low cost
5- medium value (privacy matters), low cost

Based on the above, I would suggest prioritizing features 1 and 2. Once 2 becomes available, enabling 3 is easy to build. 2 is a challenging feature to build but it will add a lot of value in the long run.

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I like the answer. Maybe list a couple more use cases and ideas? If you have time, it would be helpful if you’d also described how the Minimum Viable Product / version 1 will look like. You can describe the interface and how you would go about building it.
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I would want to assess the existing stereo market and find the area we can focus the new stereo. Along with scanning the competitive market I’d want to look at the target market for the stereo…

Competitive market includes a number of brands like Bose, Harman Kardon, JBL, etc. that partner with automotive companies such as Mazda, Subaru, VW, etc. Competing with them could be difficult. There are also stereos like Sony, Pioneer, Kenwood, etc. that are more geared toward the after-market vertical bought by consumers.

Depending on which approach we take the pain points and needs could be very different. Let’s say the interviewer says let’s go for after-market consumers.

What are the use cases of these consumers?
1) Users want premium sound quality
2) Users want to be able to connect after market speakers and sub-woofers
3) Users want connectivity with a variety of devices (e.g. mobile phone, non-phone media devices, TV, GPS, and possibly even video game consoles)
4) Users want the newest and best audio tech (e.g. early adopters of any new features car play, voice control, etc.)
5) Users want to be able to control volume, station, song, skip, repeat, shuffle, etc.

Use case 1, isn’t something that is new or better than competitors. They all have systems providing premium sound. Use case 2, isn’t new either and is table stakes so that’s required.
Use case 3, has some flexibility in new as not all systems provide access to car play, video, etc so we can play here but it could be costly as we would have to pay apple and other major device makers to have access to their systems
Use case 4, let’s focus on this use case and think of new ideas within it.
Use case 5, table stakes as all stereos should enable or they won’t be able to compete

Idea 1 – a new health connected stereo that uses your smartwatch biometrics to increase the volume, determine the songs, etc based on how you’re feeling. (e.g. your heart rate is pumping and weather is crazy so the stereo senses the stress and decides to play something calming via Spotify)
Idea 2 – smart stereo that is socially connected and pulls in new songs from other users like you based on saved songs on your devices to help you discover new music. (sure Spotify does this but the stereo system could be more expansive by connecting all users across all music apps using the stereo system)
Idea 3 – smart stereo that determines where you are traveling based on common routes and times of day that you travel them (leverages google maps, imaps, Waze) and creates playlists that end when you arrive based on the traffic and eta of the route so you don’t arrive in the middle of one of your favorite songs

Looking at these ideas I would want to assess the impact, cost, and risk of developing each to prioritize which to build:

Idea 1 –
Impact is medium, early tech adopters are probably high smartwatch users so a medium to large portion of our target segment would benefit.
Risk is large, not all users want to have music that aligns with their biometrics and the stereo could play music that contradicts what the users actually want driving down adoption and popularity.
Cost is medium, there are noise control services that adjust based on road noise so we could leverage those services to expand to biometrics but it would require access to biometric data (APIs could cost)

Idea 2 –
Impact is large, users are early adopters and like new tech. This is new and leveraging popular features from existing services to create a greater network of data
Risk is medium, is getting access to the music services which also plays into cost but also not a major risk given that we can find a number of smaller players to prove the concept. Stereo shouldn’t require any additional risk in terms of size/fit for cars so any car should be able to fit similar to standard stereo specs.
Cost is large, we would need to partner with Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, and other music services. If we can’t get access to all stores/services we could find smaller services to get started and prove the concept which would help lower our cost. Once concept is proven then we could go back to the bigger players with proof and they’ll want to join us which will give leverage to keep costs down. Effort to build could be expansive so t-shirt this as a large effort.

Idea 3 –
Impact is small, most users probably don’t have a big issue with arriving at their location in the middle of their favorite song
Risk is medium, difficult to gauge all the factors impacting the length of travel and time of arrival.
Cost is medium, would need to sync with maps services and assess the time of travel and then shuffle the songs in the users library to ensure the total length of songs ends at approx arrival. Would require continuous update and change as the flow of traffic, speed of travel, etc changes throughout the trip.

I would select idea 2 as the feature/stereo to build.

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