UberPool for long distances
Empowering long distance travellers to plan trips together
Context
Empowering long distance travellers to plan trips together
When I tried using uberPOOL for the first time a couple of months ago in Toronto, I became an instant fan. Sharing a car with someone else, personally, was totally worth the convenience of better price. UberPOOL’s mission of cutting congestion, pollution and parking by turning every car into a shared car aligns with how I believe the world is going to work in the future with the introduction of driverless cars. One way that I believe Uber should expand their outreach of this initiative is by focusing on the needs of unique niche markets and then once the system is perfected, expand to other markets with similar needs. One specific market that I have found reason to believe has potential is focusing on university students. Below I have put together a case study for how Uber could expand its efforts in uberPOOL.
The Problem
Students are getting the short end of the stick
The transportation system that students use to travel between home and university is flawed in many ways. Focusing on the province of Ontario in Canada, a large proportion of students going to university in Ontario are from the city of Toronto. In fact, roughly 50% of the population of Ontario lives in Toronto. With this many people having a home in the city of Toronto, it is a common occurrence to have university students needing a way to go back and forth from their university and home. Personally, like the large majority of students at University of Waterloo, as a student living in Toronto, Canada, I very frequently have to experience the burden of organizing a ride for myself to or from school. Currently, no platform has successfully solved this problem that many thousands of students in North America have of going to an from university.
The Goal
Focus on university students as a niche target market
The transportation system that students use to travel between home and university is flawed in many ways. Focusing on the province of Ontario in Canada, a large proportion of students going to university in Ontario are from the city of Toronto. In fact, roughly 50% of the population of Ontario lives in Toronto. With this many people having a home in the city of Toronto, it is a common occurrence to have university students needing a way to go back and forth from their university and home. Personally, like the large majority of students at University of Waterloo, as a student living in Toronto, Canada, I frequently experience the burden of organizing a ride for myself to or from school. Currently, no platform has successfully solved this problem that many thousands of students in North America have of travelling to and from university.
Market Research
Current products just aren't solving the problem

While there are a few possible options for travelling to and from university, the main downside to the reasonably-priced existing options is that students must find their own transportation to one of the 2 pick-up locations within the city of Toronto. This is especially difficult for international students who don’t have family to drive them to a nearby pick-up location and therefore end up requiring to also take an additional mode of transportation, such as public transit to their nearest pick-up location. As outlined below, students are wanting a to be picked-up from a location that is not far from their current location while keeping a reasonable price. This has naturally introduced the uprising of students sharing rides, who connect through Facebook, within the past few years which has brought along a few problems of its own.

Intercity bus services

For many years, taking an intercity bus from the city of Toronto to your respective university has been the standard method of transportation. However, with the inconvenience that comes with it, it is starting to become less and less popular with respect to students using ridesharing groups on Facebook.

Pros
Cons
Taxi services

While taking a taxi is likely to be by far the least popular method of transportation for students travelling to university, it is important to consider so that it is clear what the underlying reasons why the majority of students do not prefer this option.

Pros
Cons
uberPOOL

Since uberPOOL will generally be unavailable for the time and distance that is requested by a student needs to go 100km+ to their school, the student rider may opt to ride an uberX to school.

Pros
Cons
Ridesharing Groups on Facebook

The fastest growing option amongst students, nowadays, is students connecting with other students through a ridesharing group on Facebook, where student drivers can connect with students who need to travel to and from the university. All the major universities in the province of Ontario have active ridesharing groups where students can connect with each other. While this is currently the best option for most students, it is nowhere near a perfect system and many improvements can be made in favor of both student drivers and riders.

Pros
Cons
Business Goals
Solving this problem to support Uber's mission

From my previous internships, I have found that it is important to always know the overall business goals of any project initiative within a company. The 3 important areas that I have found can help push new projects forward is by focusing on how a new initiative can: stem losses, increase revenue or help the company be a leader in their industry by introducing new product capabilities. The following demonstrates the business objectives that a project like this would positively impact Uber’s bottom line.

New Users
By focusing on university students as the target market for this project Uber will be able to capture more of the upcoming, younger generation of consumers.
Increased engagement
Similar to uberCOMMUTE, this project allows Uber to benefit from users coming back and using the platform since drivers and riders who consistently travel to and from school and enjoy the experience will return whenever they plan a trip. This benefit of having recurring user engagement could also result in drivers and users could be a good way of introducing new users to the platform who may have not been previously open to using Uber products.
Greater environmental impact
Introducing this project would contribute towards uberPOOL’s mission of cutting congestion and pollution on the roads since student drivers who previously would drive to and from school by themselves would now be sharing their vehicle with other people.
Industry leadership
Finally, this initiative would enable Uber to further its presence as an industry leader by introducing a new means of providing reliable transportation to an area that no notable company has successfully solved.
User Goals
Student riders and drivers collectively want a better way to come together
During the market research phase, I noticed that not only do student riders want a way to connect with drivers but student drivers who have already planned a trip to travel a far distance are also interested in being able to connect with potential riders. This is demonstrated when student drivers on ridesharing groups make postings indicating that they are travelling a certain direction and ask if there are any riders that are interested in joining. This therefore proved there to be 2 types of students that would benefit from being able to connect over Uber for long distance trips to and from school.
User Task Flow
Crafting a solution that integrates well and makes sense
For most of my design projects, before diving into figuring out how anything is going to be designed, I try to stay as low-fidelity as possible. I find this important when starting any project so I can easily make on the fly and can make sure the overall architecture of the project integrates well with the rest of the project. In the below user-task flows I attempted to find the optimal workflow that balanced a great user-experience, by requiring the least amount of user input, and technical effort, while respecting the good design work that Uber already created.
Final Design
Considering every use case, leaving no scenario left to chance

After finalizing the optimal user task flow, I made specific changes to the user interface with care while noting down the reasoning behind every design decision to keep the design thorough down to the last detail. I find this can be helpful when presenting a new a significant amount of changes to the user experience to a team to show which possibilities have been considered. Below, highlighted in blue, are the changes that I would recommend so that the user needs discussed earlier are accommodated.

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