This summer I was living in Cape Town, South Africa for an internship. As an international traveler, I relied on the safest methods of transportation. In Cape Town, the safest form is Uber… or I thought it was.
When you travel to a new place, you latch onto things that feel like home. I predicted that travelers in Cape Town trust Uber as a safe transportation service based on their familiarity with the application in their home country. However, travelers continue to be hesitant to trust Uber drivers when riding alone. My original hypothesis was proven false after one of my best friends was assaulted by an Uber driver when trying to get home alone after a night out. After failing to solve this problem legally with authorities, I turned to design to create a solution to improve rider’s safety in Cape Town and beyond. Everyone deserves to feel safe and protected anywhere they travel.
International User Research
Following the unsuccessful legal investigations, I conducted my own interviews. I interviewed young international travelers in Cape Town from ages 18–26 to learn more about emotional and behavioral patterns when riding in an Uber alone in South Africa.
- The majority of unsafe feelings begin with the initial interaction with the driver. The moment the rider closes the door they are confined to a restricted environment with limited space and communication.
- Cell phone use during the ride makes the user feel more unsafe because they have no cell service to scroll through social media or talk to friends outside of the ride.
People want to inform their friends and family about their safety, but can’t communicate unless s/he has cellular data.
Existing Solution: Share Status
Currently, Uber allows the user to share their trip status so a friend can track them on their ride.
Uber’s current solution contains problems that decrease feasibility and accessibility.
- Share status requires cellular data and makes the user responsible to remember to share after the rider began his/her trip
- The shared ride is unaccessible after closing the tab once
I recognized the solution had to focus on both the active and passive user.
Designing for Travelers
To design for international travelers full of diverse backgrounds and perceptions of safety, I created personas to highlight key needs and frustrations of users.
The Problem: Limitations
People’s root of stress when traveling alone is beyond the physicality of being alone in an Uber but rather exists because of the lack of communication. The prices for international data constrict travelers from purchasing cellular data. Travelers rely on Wi-Fi within their homes, bars, and clubs to order Ubers and communicate with friends. In a technical approach, this is a problem oriented with finances to purchase data, however, my research proves it is a problem with communication.
Beginning with various problem spaces, I conducted a brainstorming session to determine the method to conquer the problem and travel through various levels of feasibility and impact to brainstorm possible solutions.
Designing for the Rider
The problem can be tackled from a preventative, actionable or crisis method to design a solution. The user research pointed to pivotal moments during the ride when the user felt powerless with no communication with friends outside of the ride. This made me tackle the preventative side of the problem.
Although the friend can’t physically be in the car, they should be able to monitor the ride.
High Fidelity Flow: Creating a Scheduled Safety Share
High Fidelity Prototype: Creating a Scheduled Safety Share
Designing for Friend at Home
When someone rides in an Uber alone in Cape Town, it extends concern to the rider’s friends. I conducted in-person interviews to gather information about the passive user. Emotions of stress, concern, insecurity, and anxiety arose when talking about the feeling of waiting to hear from a friend riding alone.
“Whenever my friend goes home alone, I am more nervous than she might be. I am always thinking of her and waiting until she tells me she gets home.”
“I would normally walk my friend out then he would get in his Uber. Then I wouldn’t hear from him until he got home.”
How can you help the friend at home feel more comfortable?
High Fidelity Flow: Accessing the Live Ride
High Fidelity Prototype: Accessing the Live Ride
I tried everything in my power to make my friend and those around me feel safe and empowered. When I could not solve the problem in legal manners, I began designing to share her story, my story, and the millions around the world to make an impact on the future rider or future shark diving enthusiast.
Cape Town, South Africa is full of people I love, places I continue to dream of, and memories I will forever hang on to. Every day I think of the thousands of travelers going in and out of Ubers and hope the discussion, implementation, and action is taken to impact young traveler’s lives in positive ways. You have the power to make that positive change. Run it.