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Prompt Engineering for Ideation: Connected Cars

Prompt Engineering for Ideation: Connected Cars

By Tojin T. Eapen

In this post, we will explore how Large Language Model (LLM) tools like ChatGPT can support a systematic idea-generation process that utilizes heuristics to guide divergent thinking. Specifically, we will examine whether we can identify product or business model ideas for connected cars using the "Combination" heuristic or "Combine" thinking tool, which involves generating divergent ideas by combining, integrating, or linking two currently unrelated components. The Combine thinking tool is one of the 11 thinking tools of Innomantra's Functional Innovation Methodology.

In the ideation process, we enlist the help of ChatGPT in generating ideas and text-to-image models to visualize the ideas. Our goal is to identify some exciting business ideas for connected vehicles that involve combining, associating, or connecting an internal component inside a vehicle with external entities encountered by a car during a typical journey. Our prompts are in blue and italicized, and the response of ChatGPT is in green.

Please help me identify some internal components inside a car. Some of these are the passenger, dashboard, and windshield. Can you identify some more?

Sure, here are some more internal components of a modern car: Engine, Transmission, Steering wheel, Brake pedal, Accelerator pedal, Seats (front and back), Climate control system, Radio/Infotainment System, GPS navigation system, Gauges (speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, etc.), Headlights, Power windows, Mirrors (rearview and side), Glove compartment, Central console, Sunroof/Moonroof, Trunk/Boot, Exhaust system.

Now think of a car journey from a home to a supermarket 5 miles away. Create a list of entities the vehicle might encounter on the way. Examples include road signs, cars, pedestrians, and billboards.

Sure, here is a list of entities a car might encounter on a 5 mile journey to a supermarket: Roads, Traffic signals/stop signs, Other vehicles (cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc.), Pedestrians, Bicyclists, Animals (dogs, cats, squirrels, etc.), Roadside vendors, Billboards, Street lights, Crosswalks, Sidewalks, Buildings, Parking lots, Roundabouts/intersections, Traffic cones/barricades, Street signs/directional signs, Traffic cameras, Street vendors, Street musicians.

Now generate a product or business idea that involves combining, connecting, associating or interacting an internal component inside a car and an eternal entity that the car encounters on its journey. For example, the car displays advertising when it stops at a signal.

  • Connected Road Sign: A device that connects to the car's infotainment system and displays real-time information on road signs as the car passes them. This information could include detours, traffic updates, road construction, and other relevant information. The car's GPS could be used to pinpoint the location of the vehicle and display the appropriate information.
  • Smart Parking Assistant: A system that uses the car's GPS and camera to identify and reserve a parking spot at the destination. The system could use information from other connected cars to predict parking availability and guide the driver to an available spot. It could also provide payment options, and reserve the spot until the driver arrives, avoiding the frustration of searching for a spot or getting a ticket.
  • Interactive Billboards: A system that uses the car's cameras and GPS to recognize billboards and display interactive content related to the advertisement. For example, if the billboard advertises a local restaurant, the car's infotainment system could display menu options and promotions, allowing the driver to make a reservation or place an order before arriving at the destination.
  • Pedestrian Safety Alert: A device that uses the car's sensors to detect pedestrians and alert the driver with a visual or audio warning. The device could also automatically activate the brakes in an emergency situation to avoid a collision. The system could be integrated with the city's pedestrian infrastructure, such as crosswalks, to provide a more comprehensive safety solution.

The above descriptions could be used to generate prompts for text-to-image models. To illustrate, we use the first idea, "Connected Road Signs," and use the description to request ChatGPT for a prompt that can be used with DALL-E, OpenAI's text-to-image model.

Create a prompt for DALL-E to generate a detailed image that describes the following idea: "Connected Road Sign: A device that connects to the car's infotainment system and displays real-time information on road signs as the car passes them. This information could include detours, traffic updates, road construction, and other relevant information. The car's GPS could be used to pinpoint the location of the vehicle and display the appropriate information."

"Generate a detailed image of a car with a connected road sign device installed, showing how it displays real-time information about road signs and updates as the car drives by. Include the car's infotainment system, GPS, and a road sign in the image to illustrate the interaction between the device and the road signs. Highlight the key features of the connected road sign device, such as its ability to display detours, traffic updates, road construction information, and its use of the car's GPS to provide relevant information."

This prompt was then used to generate images that could illustrate the above concept. At this stage, it might be helpful for the ideator to refine the idea and modify the prompt to make it more effective and useful. In our case, we used the prompt as-is to illustrate a simplified approach.

Prompt Engineering for Ideation: Connected Cars

We could also ask ChatGPT to generate ideas for combinations that it has not used. For example, from the list of internal components and external entities we select Climate Control System and Roadside vendors. Notice that these two concepts are not normally linked to each other, and appear incongruous.  Generating an idea that combines or connects these entities can be challenging to human ideators. Here we will ask ChatGPT to generate 10 ideas that connect these concepts.

Generate 10 ideas for connected cars that involves combining, connecting, associating, integrating, or linking the Climate Control System inside the car with Roadside vendors that the vehicle encounters during a journey.
  • Automatic ordering of refreshments from vendors based on car climate control settings.
  • Integrating climate control with road side vendors to adjust temperature based on outside weather conditions.
  • Connecting car climate control system to nearby restaurants for pre-ordering food.
  • Linking the climate control system with gas stations for convenient fuel and AC top-up.
  • Integrating car climate control with hotels for room temperature control.
  • Automated payment for services like car wash and AC refill using climate control system.
  • Combining car climate control and toll-booth payments for seamless transactions.
  • Connecting car climate control with parking lots to reserve and adjust temperature in parking spaces.
  • Associating car climate control with charging stations to optimize battery cooling while charging.
  • Integrating car climate control with rest stops for a comfortable break during long drives.
Here we see that except for the first 2-3 ideas, the other ideas appear impractical, irrelevant, or infeasible. However, the first two ideas look potentially promising, and we can ask ChatGPT to expand on the idea.

Can you expand on the following idea: "Automatic ordering of refreshments from vendors based on car climate control settings."

Sure! The "Automatic ordering of refreshments from vendors based on car climate control settings" involves using the climate control system in a connected car to make refreshment orders from road side vendors. When the car's temperature reaches a certain level, the climate control system can automatically trigger an order for drinks, snacks or food from a nearby vendor. The vendor receives the order and prepares the refreshments, which can be delivered directly to the car or picked up by the driver. This idea leverages the convenience and connectivity of connected cars to provide a seamless and personalized refreshment experience for drivers. The climate control settings of the car can be used to determine the preferred temperature of the refreshments, ensuring that they are delivered at the optimal temperature for the driver's comfort.

Now, this idea is much better specified and certainly looks like one that can be explored or implemented. Similar to the case of the Connected Road Sign idea, we can ask ChatGPT to generate a prompt that we can use to generate images for the idea.

Generate a prompt to use with DALL-E to generate a realistic image for the above idea.

"Generate an image of a connected car with its climate control system automatically ordering refreshments from a roadside vendor and the vendor delivering the refreshments directly to the car window."

We used the above prompt to generate concept images for the above idea that associates the climate control system and roadside vendors, four of which are shown in the collage below. These images could be used to illustrate or refine the idea. 

Prompt Engineering for Ideation: Connected Cars

The above illustration shows how ChatGPT can be used with simple design heuristics to increase the search space of ideas, as well an improve the specificity of individual ideas. However, this may not be the only way that ChatGPT can be used with the Combination heuristic. For example, another approach might be for ChatGPT to generate random concepts that may be linked or associated with internal components or external entities encountered by the connected car.

To learn how leading Fortune Global 500 companies such as ABB, Bosch, Google, Samsung, and NetApp have used Innomantra's Functional Innovation Methodology to turbocharge their idea management process, schedule a meeting today at