We have been working on an endeavor to create a mobile app for casual carpools. The goal is to help riders and drivers better plan their morning commute.
We are treating this project as a way to design “en plein air”, giving insight into our process without having to show any client work.
A Little Background
In the Bay Area (particularly East Bay) there is a huge benefit to carpooling. At the Bay Bridge toll plaza, carpools (which are comprised of 3 or more ride people in one car) are given their own lane with no metering lights. Knowing this incentive drivers will visit designated pickup locations and pick up total strangers in order to achieve carpool status. These pickup locations can have more riders than cars or vice-a-versa, but there is no way of knowing.
How We Think We Can Help
The ambiguity of these pickup locations is what we are trying to resolve. We want to create a tool that will help keep track of riders and drivers at pickup locations as well as riders and drivers en route to pickup locations. That way carpoolers can make informed decision on their commute, both riders and drivers should know their chances of either catching a ride or picking up riders any location.
As with any project the design problem seems small at first but as we dug in we uncovered unforeseen complexities. For example, the application needs to report how many drivers and riders are at any given pickup location. We realized that not everyone will have the app, even if we had a hundred percent adoption at these pickup locations, we are only targeting iOS as our launch platform, Android and other mobile devices users will not be represented. So early on, we made the decision that we needed to rely on users to report what they saw at their location. We could rely on GPS location, and that data will still be used, but we knew that reporting users would return better results.
We also had fun understanding and playing out the relationship between cars, seats, and riders, where a vehicle only needs three riders to use the carpool lane unless it’s a two-seater, in which case it needs two, etc. etc. Rolling around our conference room in our chairs and debating what to do with a “good samaritan” who takes more people than they need reminded us both that nothing is as simple as it looks, and how much we love these detailed, tricky problems.
Here are a few wireframe that shows our thought process for this reporting feature.
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