UrbanGo is a public transit and mapping startup based in Silicon Valley. Their goal is to solve urban mobility problems through an app which calculates and displays the quickest and cheapest possible routes (from public and private transport), with live timing, between any two locations in a supported city.
Although the current product of UrbanGo already solves some of the main problems of the urban mobility, there is a common complaint from many users related to the different amount and kind of public transport tickets the users need to purchase.
The Interview — Empathizing
In order to acknowledge the problem, an interview was carried with six people (from September 21st to September 25th). These people were carefully selected: adults in their thirties who use public transport locally and abroad — four of them are currently living in Brazil, one in France and other in Ireland.
Here are the main findings:
Preference: Busses, trams, subways and trains (inter cities) are among the means of transportation used by the interviewees when travelling abroad and also used on a daily basis. In addition, public transport is sometimes avoided in smaller cities due to poor service quality and inaccurate schedules.
Cashless: In some cities you can’t take a bus if you have no ticket nor you can buy a bus ticket on the bus. So, you have to buy the tickets or contactless cards beforehand. Some metropolitan buses and trains are already accepting contactless debit cards — with NFC technology — or phone apps — if your phone has this technology. In addition, buses and trams that still accept cash have no change — you need to have the right amount or you will be kicked out or even spend an extra amount.
Buying: Physical tellers generally only accept cash, unless you are buying a contactless card instead of a single ticket. On the other hand, vending machines accept debit cards or cash — just specific bank notes. Although, Facing queues to buy tickets and some vending machines not working properly were also mentioned.
Charging can be confusing: when you have to pay for the entire journey or whether the driver charges according to the route you are taking (once there is no collector on board). Besides, there is also the entry model, when you have to pay a fixed amount on departure and an additional one on arrival, depending on the landing point.
Competition: The related app was not mentioned by the users, most of the interviewees use or have used Google Maps’ route function. Cittamobi (Brazilian app), Waze (Google’s app), Moovit (Intel’s app) and specific city maps (apps or web) were also mentioned. Moreover, since its launch Uber app has been directly used when public transport is avoided for any reason.
And last but not least, human contact was also mentioned as being an important part of a trip. So, asking some local instead of going directly to an app adds a special touch to your experience abroad.
The main problem found — Defining
The main issue found is the pain of having to purchase different public transport tickets by different channels with limited payment methods and all the side effects of it.
Working it all out — Ideating
During the brainstorm phase, a few ideas have come to mind, from QR code tickets to NFC microchip’s implants. The main goal have been facilitating and integrating payment apps in order to create a universal transport ticket through the UrbanGo app.
Sketch on! — Prototyping, Testing and Prototyping Again
After a few iterations, the QR code tickets was the chosen option. As a result, it could be more inclusive for smartphones without NFC and for possible public transport QR code readers.
The user may also have the option of not generating QR tickets and not being charged for the application.
Loading your UrbanGo virtual card is also an option. Therefore, when generating tickets for each mean of transportation, the amount would be charged directly from the app without validating a credit card transaction.
A few key things learned throughout the process
People person: Some people do care about the human contact. These new features can speed up our travels but they can also make us avoid face-to-face asking. Food for thought: maybe linking a service feature, making hiring a local guide for the selected route possible, can be hype in the future (after the Covid19 Season, I meant).
Testing Similar Apps: During the ideating phase, it is important to check how similar apps are dealing with the task around the world (and you do not even have to get out of your home). Simulating your location in order to test the behaviour of different apps around the globe is not a complicated task: install this kind of software (just Google it) on your computer, connect your smartphone to it and start jumping around the world!
New Technologies: According to researches, there is an estimate that NFC mobile payment users will rise from 69.4 million — by the end of 2020 — to 80.1 million — by 2023. So, it is an experience worth to invest.
Guessing is not finding: Keep on with your planned interviews, there is aways something different to learn from one interviewee.
Thank you for reading!
This is just one of the possible ideas.