In the near future, autonomous cars are expected to take over the streets, transforming how we plan our cities and how we travel. It’s expected that autonomous cars could make personal transportation more convenient, with people picked up and dropped off safely anywhere by a robotic vehicle that’s trained to do just that. The human algorithms called ‘Uber drivers’ and the car industry’s self-driving car programs are already deep in R&D land meaning this could all become a reality sooner rather than later.
But is building multiple file lanes and putting a myriad of self-driving cars on the streets really the solution to our transport needs? Public transportation is already ubiquitous, and as regions grow and cities rise in population, travelling together frees up much-needed space on the roads and helps reduce the reliance on less efficient ways of travel. The journeys run – for now – to a schedule, and you will have to share your experience with someone else and likely walk the final part to your destination. So, for today's public transportation to become truly accessible and serve everyone, we need to improve it by making it more intuitive for the public.
Revealing the skills of public transportation
Over the last year, ustwo Nordics has been working with Skånetrafiken (the regional public transportation authority in the south of Sweden) to design their new app. The focus lies on improving elements of the travel experience to better serve the public - with the ultimate aim of encouraging more people to use public transportation.
The mobile app is a key touchpoint for today’s traveller. It’s the companion that guides you through the entire journey and should act as a personal travel assistant by your side. An assistant that makes you feel efficient, safe and in control, so you can fully take advantage of the public transportation system.
**When designing the app for Skånetrafiken, we’re focusing on three key scenarios: **
- Commuting - Reoccurring trips between two known locations. In this scenario, optimization is key.
- The unknown trip - A one-time trip to an unknown destination where ‘handholding’ is needed throughout the journey.
- Traffic disruptions - When the travel situation has changed and transportation is not working as expected we need to provide helpful information and problem-solving support.
Using a lean user-centered process, we’re iterating our way from concept to product involving the user in every step with the key question being “What will make you travel more?”. The project setup is fantastic. Skånetrafiken has built a lab environment in a central location in Malmö and put a cross-functional team together in one room allowing for close collaboration. We’re also close to local transportation meaning we have easy access to users. The setup has really helped us to be efficient in all parts of the product process.
The more users we meet during the project the more we realise we can never properly validate all travel scenarios with user testing in a lab, it’s just too complex. So, this summer we’re launching a public beta to get the app in the hands of real users to try out in their daily lives. We’re aiming to get enough features into the app so it can be used as a replacement for other travel apps. The purpose is to learn, so when we go live with the final product it will support more travel scenarios, efficiently meet user needs and hopefully encourage more people to use public transportation.
The public beta
When we think about going somewhere most of us tend to grab our phones and consider public transportation as the obvious first choice to get us there. It’s at this stage in of the user experience that we need to present relevant travel options as quickly as possible. We also need to allow for exploration and show the users that public transportation can take you to the desired destination at a convenient time. anywhere you want at any time.
We also want the user to feel in control of their own time. They need to trust that transportation will pick them up and drop them off according to the time plan. All travellers need varying degrees of guidance throughout their journey, some more than others. The uncertainties of public transport including delays for example, can be a barrier that we'd like to minimise by providing the right timely information direct to the user when problems occur. You don’t want to stress people with irrelevant information about issues that might be happening to others.
These are some of the specific areas that were hoping to explore and validate through our public beta. If you’re based in Southern Sweden, or visiting, and interested in helping, please follow the link to sign up:
Only a tap away
As Skånetrafiken controls the transport infrastructure it has the opportunity to make the travel experience great – tracking vehicles and travellers throughout the journey to make travelling feel fun, safe and convenient. You get on around the corner and will be dropped off by your destination. It’s cheap. It’s friendly. It’s convenient. We believe by revealing the benefits of public transport and making all touchpoints of the journey a great experience, public transport will be the obvious choice for the future. A lot of what people hope to be solved by autonomous cars in cities is already solved by public transport. Buses and trains will eventually be self-driving as well, but let’s continue to travel together.