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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 Human Factors

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:

  • Usability—is the service easy to use?
  • Convenience—does the service make it easier and faster to get from point A to point B?
  • Reliability—does the service consistently perform as expected?
  • Exception handling—what happens when the service doesn’t work?
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    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.

     

    Making it Work

    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?

     

    Simplifying Complexity

    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.

  • Operators can design and manage services with an intuitive interface. They can also grasp the complexity of the system through those interfaces in order to trust it.
  • Travelers can book a ride with the touch of a button.
  • Drivers receive optimized routes with turn-by-turn guidance.
  • Attendants get real-time data from their AVs, their operations and are directly connected with remote operators during their shift.
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    Diving into Bestmile’s Product Design Practices

    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:

  • The processes are user-centric.
  • The processes are iterative.
  • The results are continuously evaluated at each decision point.
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    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:

  • User interviews to understand how our users perform specific tasks and to capture their habits and frustrations. Users include passengers, operators, and attendants.
  • Workshops with customers and potential customers to collect insights about the industry’s future trends around autonomous vehicles, and expectations around service design, performance, monitoring, and exception handling.
  • Internal and external feedback collection, injected back into the product development process.
  • Research themes and trends around our products, the usage habits of potential users, and existing competing products.
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    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:

  • Loading the designs into a visual UX design platform (inVision) to collect internal feedback.
  • Testing the design prototype within inVision with our users to collect external feedback.
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    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:

  • Operators at the backoffice (Dashboard)
  • Professional app users (Driver App, Attendant App)
  • Consumers (Traveler App, Digital Signage and other public interfaces)
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    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.

     

    Conclusion

    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.

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