Humans in the Loop
June 17, 2021 | Company Blog
Mobility will always be about humans helping humans move. The technology behind this, whether horse-drawn carriages or driverless cars—is a mean to an end and not an end in itself. Amid all of the discussions about new mobility services, it is easy to forget that people design, operate, and use these services and to do that well, services should be centered around human needs at every level.
The technology connecting people with mobility services has always been complex. Some have argued that the algorithms that automate dispatching, ride-matching, and routing to make shared mobility services more convenient than driving are even more complicated. But we must not let complexity dictate user experience.
The people involved in delivering and using autonomous services are not tech experts, and ease of use is critical to service delivery and adoption. Remember Windows 8? Probably not, because the operating system was short-lived. The simple removal of the start button from the user interface caused extreme frustration among workers and help desks trying to support them. Assuming service is safe and affordable, human factors are crucial to mobility service adoption and success. These include:
All of these factors apply to both operators and travelers. If a service isn’t easy to manage, there will doubtlessly be a performance problem. Neither human, software, or hardware is perfect, and there will be breakdowns with all three. Like any service, how quickly you resolve problems and the quality of communication in resolving them are critical to operator and customer loyalty.
Automated, optimized dispatching and routing can improve fleet performance, maximizing revenue per vehicle while delivering a reliable, convenient customer and driver experience. The Bestmile Fleet Orchestration Platform provides the technology and algorithms that automate dispatching, ride-matching, and routing of vehicles which, as mentioned, is extremely difficult from software development and algorithmic standpoint. But what of the user and operator experience?
In addition to the fleet orchestration engine, Bestmile has developed an easy-to-use and easy-to-customize operator dashboard and mobile applications for travelers, drivers (for today’s human-driven services), and attendants when staffed on autonomous vehicles.
There are many methods of problem-solving which depend on the desired outcome. At Bestmile, we select the right option depending on the product or feature. UX design is a set of tools and practices putting the user at the heart of designing the objects, interfaces, and services intended for him/her.
The common points of these methods are illustrated below:
Discovering User Needs
UX design starts with understanding our user expectations—both operators and travelers. It is the discovery process. Some of the steps we take are:
With this information, we augment our UX research, benchmark the current state, align with user interface best practices, and build personas and empathy maps for all relevant use cases.
Before development: Build hypotheses
During co-creative meetings, the Bestmile team brainstorms, defines, and prioritizes features that will improve the product and the user experience. We provide the models to the developers who will integrate these features.
The Bestmile team builds design models around the users’ journeys in a digital design platform (Sketch). The platform accelerates development by enabling the designers to use pre-developed modules, with the added benefit of having built-in coherence between products. The next steps include:
After development: Collect feedback
We then test the journey flow internally with a different team in the field for real-world use cases for the Traveler App, Driver App, Attendant App, and Dashboard. It allows us to discover bugs, analyze the implementation of the feature, and have the first feedback on products’ UX.
We hold more external user tests to refine the interface, observe how users use and understand the software, and run through real-world scenarios.
This process is repeated for the different types of users that will engage with the platform:
These are different types of users interacting with the platform in different contexts and with different previous experience and assumptions. The goal is to get access to as many levels of feedback as possible and make it usable by the product and UX teams.
For each of these approaches, the process is highly iterative and might include the engineering teams as well, based on the need and focus.
Technology is as good as it makes humans’ lives easier. Mobility is no exception. Technologies and services that win the race to adoption will be those that work best for everyone—no matter who (or what) is driving.