RIDES Autonomous Vehicles
RIDES is an autonomous public transportation system prototyped by a team of 24 undergraduate design students during the 5-week RISD Industrial Design Wintersession course, Autonomous Vehicle Futures, instructed by MID candidate Jeremy Bass.
My role in this project involved leading a team of four design students in the creation of user access points. This included generating interfaces across multiple platforms: a smartphone app, ticketing kiosk, and finally an integrated SMS/Messenger chatbot.
Since I was the only graphic designer in the team, I also had the responsibility of creating the brand identity for the system. This involved devising the naming, logo, colors, typography and various interface assets.
RIDES is an acronym that stands for Rhode Island Driverless Electrical System. Brand positioning for RIDES followed our desire to appeal to local riders in the Providence area.
Prototyping & User Research
The wayfinding group began by conducting several rounds of user research. We began with several field studies of Providence's current public transit system, RIPTA. While using the bus, we each talked to riders, drivers, and pedestrians.
The most common issues we heard from daily RIPTA users was that the buses often ran off-schedule, often showing up much later than usual. What we heard from pedestrians who did not use RIPTA's buses was that they felt that either scheduling was not easy enough to find, or that bus stops weren't located in convenient locations for them.
With this information in hand we decided that the driving principle of our user experience should be accessibility. In order to make a truly useful, dependable autonomous transit system, we needed to make it effortless to summon scheduling, stop locations, and access transit help.
Wireframing & Interface Design
In wireframing the layout of the application, we decided to begin with a familiar map UI as a landing screen. This reflected our desire to use the core application as an opportunity to emphasize visual components and isotypes as opposed to a text-heavy approach in order to allow users of various language backgrounds and levels of reading comprehension to be better accommodated into the RIDES ecosystem.
By creating both a graphical interface in tandem with a messaging interface, users can choose to use either one exclusively without losing key functionality. However, by using them together the user will experience both robust utility and personability in wayfinding.
Public transportation is a service for all; therefore access points must be designed for use by people of varying physical abilities and economic backgrounds.
The RIDES' mascot is Rhody, a virtual wayfinding assistant modeled after the state bird, the Rhode Island Red Rooster. Besides being the brand's personality, Rhody is central in RIDES' mission to creating an equitable user experience.
What came out of this driving principle of accessibility was not only the core application, but a conversational AI available across multiple platforms and user touchpoints.
This video illustrates The RIDES Application which includes a familiar map UI and wayfinding functionality. This interface is designed for users with limited linguistic or hearing capacity since it emphasizes visual interactions through the use of icons and isotypes.
Chatbot User Journey
Before prototyping the chatbot interaction it was imperative that we detailed a user journey with multiple pathways. We decided that the chatbot would primarily operate as an assistant for commuting but could also give local recommendations to users.
Demonstrated here is an in-app chat interaction with Rhody. In this example Rhody recognizes a routine route that the user takes and asks if they would like to schedule accommodations in the future. The chat functionality allows users that are visually impaired or more interested in a hands-free experience to get to a desired location.
Our goal was to make the wayfinding ecosystem as accessible as possible. Here I was able to extend Rhody to Facebook Messenger by using IBM's Watson Chat capabilities. In this scenario Rhody is able to provide a user with recommendations to a local Chinese restaurant and reserve him a table and a seat on the transit system.
To go even further, we implimented Rhody on SMS. Given the power and potential of technologies such as IBM Watson, we looked to reach as many platforms possible in pursuit of an equitable wayfinding experience.
The Physical Prototype
While we were each involved in our own respective groups, we all had a hand in constructing the final full-scale autonomous vehicle prototype. A total of 24 students came together in the last 2 weeks to put together the 12 x 7 x 9 foot prototype ahead of our final presentation in front of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.
Images above show the final physical prototype as well as various internal features designed by the Vehicle-Facing User group. Special thanks to my teammates Jason Yuan, Shikhar Tyagi, and Sooho Choi.
© Mostyn Griffith 2020