VOTED 'BEST IN SHOW'
TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY 2017 HACKATHON
Research | UX Design | Workshops | Wireframing | Prototyping
Austin, Texas ranked ninth in the country in overall population growth in 2017 as well being a growing hotspot for business. With all this influx of residents, traffic congestion has become a growing problem for commuters and city dwellers. The city has attempted to combat the issue by building up its infrastructure but have begun outreach for more creative solutions. How can the city of Austins existing infastructure be used to reduce traffic congestion?
While traffic seems to be everyones least favorite subject in every city, it is a very prominent frustration in the growing Austin city on the I-35 stretch particularly for work commuting. Although highway expansions may eventually alleviate some of this problem, some people look for more immediate and actionable solutions.
Research & Analysis
Traffic congestion in the city of Austin has been recorded by the city to better understand the problems and the city makes this data available through the Austin open data portal. The data contains millions of records from Bluetooth sensors scattered across the city’s roadways and can help to better visualize what traffic through Austin really looks. With this information, it becomes more apparent just how much peak hours affect slow down as well as highlighting how localized congestion can be. This info as well as additional research findings can be seen here.
Employees of the City of Austin reached out to students of Texas State during the 2017 Smart Cities Hackathon as a means of discovering new and unique possibilities to some existing problems within the city, traffic being among them, by utilizing technology and design. Here, city representatives presented challenges for teams of designers and developers to select from and encouraged them to design & develop their most innovative technology solutions within a 48 hour time frame.
Team “Hooli” was formed for the 2017 Smart Cities Hackathon and decided to tackle the challenge of traffic congestion in Austin. The team was composed of three Computer Science students and three Communication Design students as a mirroring for real-world cross-disciplinary teams.
With such a quick turnaround of 48 hours, the team banded to work in tandem throughout the process. Brainstorming and research among the whole team gave insight from multiple perspectives and iterative progression meant everyone participated at all times contributing to both design and development.
With a focus on hand and the team assembled, process began on finding the best solution for the traffic challenge. In order to best understand the problems of the target users within quick 48 hour timeframe, the entire team contributed to build an “Empathy Map”. Using the perspectives contributed from each team member as well as quick survey data on commuters, a better understanding of the users needs and wants was formed as well as their troubles and pain points.
After the workshop, the team was able to more easily “get in the users shoes” and a few key points became obvious. Users greatly dislike being stopped in traffic, not knowing alternate routes, and struggled with knowing the best times to leave to avoid traffic. A team brainstorm led to the idea to create an app which could “Redirect” traffic by recommending alternate routes and departure times to users for a more predictable and peaceful commute.
Wireframing and rapid prototyping became the best process to utilize the time at hand to discover the best user flow as well as seeing what features would be most feasible to create the most enjoyable overall interaction. The biggest key point that the team wanted to test was a “Gamification Model” to address the challenge of effectively motivating app usage and improving the target users experience when dealing with traffic by rewarding them with points redeemable for local prizes.
At the end of the 48 hours, a final prototype was ready for presentation and review. The final application was centered around the idea of “Using what makes Austin great, to make it better”. This concept was the backbone of the application in which drivers are encouraged to travel during off-peak hours or use alternate routes and are rewarded with Austin-specific items.
The main screen of the app is the map, here users can see when there next scheduled event starts along with the suggested alternate routes. Utilizing Austin existing traffic data in combination with the location services from app users means a more robust system of reccomendations could be created to help give best travel times and routes.
Scheduling events and syncing calendars can help take pressure off the user to plan departure times and allow the app to help reccomend leaving times based on current traffic conditions.
Rewards & Challenges
Using an in-app points system, the key motivating factor for helping users choose alternate traveling conditions are the rewards. With multiple tiers of rewards ranging from discounts and gift cards for local businesses all the way to SXSW or ACL tickets, the value to both commuters and Austin companies can be mutually beneficial.