VROOM — VR 360˚ EXPERIENCE TO BUILD DRIVER EMPATHY FOR E-SCOOTER RIDERS
Project: SMC IXD Senior Studio
Client: Bird Rides Inc. & Santa Monica College
Project Team: Luke Buenaventura, Jae Toyota, and myself
My Roles: UX Researcher, Stunt Rider/Driver, VR Prototype Designer, Video Co-Editor, and Prototype User Interviewer
Project Duration: Spring 2018 (15 weeks)
Design Tools: Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Figma, Google Docs & Slides, Slack
VR 360˚ Production & Prototype Testing Tools: Ricoh Theta S 360 camera, PS4 VR setup, Oculus Rift S setup
BIRD'S DESIGN CHALLENGE:
“How might we design a sustainable and equitable Bird loyalty program for students at SMC?”
In spring of 2019, SMC's Interaction Design department engaged Bird, the e-scooter shared mobility company headquartered in Santa Monica, and its own internal stakeholders to collaborate on mutually beneficial design project. Bird proposed the design challenge mentioned in bold above in our project kick-off meeting. We were told to "Consider the full lifecycle of Bird’s business, from first ride, to charge, to repair, recommendations, and continued use. How can students get involved like through a loyalty program in all aspects of Bird’s service ecosystem including potential part-time job opportunities.”
The project had two constraints: 1) E-scooters are not allowed on campus; 2) Bird wanted us to think through the system outside of the app and within the ecosystem of SMC. Examples could include safety, respectful rider behavior, or something else.
I chose to delve into how e-scooters are perceived by students and campus officials, as well as local government and law enforcement. What is the perception of Bird's shared mobility business with regards to safety and rider behavior? Why do some cities choose to ban e-scooters from their streets? What part of the California vehicle code applies to these new modes of transportation? All these questions needed answers in order to craft a system for improving Bird's brand in the eyes of SMC students and staff.
Build Bird loyalty at SMC through improving student confidence, safe ridership, and awareness.
The VRoom 360˚ experience builds awareness and provides fun way to educate people about e-scooter safety. Out of our 23 prototype test subjects, only two of them were confident they knew the rules of the road that applied to e-scooters. Users were unaware that e-scooter riders can utilize a bike lane's bike box to safely and legally make a left-turn. Many of our participants found the experience fun and informative.
VRoom can be used to improve the behavior of e-scooter riders and the perception of car drivers towards them. 12 of our 23 participants expressed afterwards that their perception of e-scooter riders had changed. They mentioned feeling vulnerable in the riding in traffic sequence on Santa Monica Boulevard. Some car drivers said they fell more empathetic towards e-scooter riders after experiencing it from the other side. They remarked that they would be more cautious and give riders more space. Those who were experienced scooter riders said that the VR video gave them more situational awareness.
VRoom can be a safe way for the reticent first-timers to try it out and thereby increase e-scooter ridership. We discovered in our interviews, that 8 out of our 14 non-rider participants said they would be more likely now to try e-scooters in real life having experienced it "virtually".
EMPATHY EQUALS SAFETY
Research & Discovery
My initial research focus was on the legal aspects of e-scooter usage on the road and what rules, restrictions, and laws have been created in response. I delved into how Santa Monica College, the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles, L.A. County, and the state of California have reacted to the new shared mobility sector and their citizens’ concerns about road safety. I read numerous online articles about the changing laws and restrictions that cities were enacting to appease citizen concerns and reduce hazardous situations that were plaguing city streets. I learned about the cities that banned scooters outright and about LADOT's Dockless On-Demand Personal Mobility pilot program and its 120-day conditional permit phase. Then in March the city council extended that to a year-long program with new data-collecting requirements to better assess its success. I also investigated the city of Santa Monica's shared mobility
Domain Expert Interviews
Field Observations: Venice Beach
Scooter riders were indifferent and cavalier with the rules of the road:
• Ignoring red zone restrictions • Tandem riding
• Riding against traffic • Riding on sidewalks
I soon discovered that the primary concern that should be addressed is the education of e-scooter riders of the applicable rules of the road and proper safe riding skills. Most incidents of bad rider behavior and serious accidents pointed back to users lack of knowledge of where they should or should not ride and how they can safely share the road.
Individual Research Insights
A lack of awareness of vehicle code laws that apply to e-scooter riders. Each state, county, city and municipality can create and enforce their own additional regulations and requirements (i.e., temporary or permanent bans, speed limits, no-go zones/red zones, reduced speed zones, helmet requirements, etc.).
A public and rider perception of it not being a real vehicle — more a toy — than something subject to rules of the road. Generations of people have grown up riding human-powered recreational scooters that are allowed on sidewalks and beach bike paths. However, unlike bicycles, there isn't a culture of sharing the road with automobiles and other motorized vehicles.
A lack of ownership and responsibility due to the shared mobility rental model mentality and transient engagement. Riders believe the they can't be held responsible for the scooter or the consequences of misuse, poor etiquette and behavior, or damages and injuries. They leave scooters lying about on sidewalks blocking pedestrian right of ways.
Bird & SMC Ecosystem Map
Customer Journey Map
VR 360˚ Video Prototype Testing
VROOM PROJECT TEAM