Designing For The Future of Transportation
Transportation is rapidly changing, and our vehicles, software, and maps must all adapt to keep up. Electric vehicles are growing in popularity, autonomous vehicles are receiving billions in funding, and the global ride-sharing market is expected to grow by more than one hundred and fifteen percent between 2021 and 2026.
Rapid change presents an exciting opportunity, but it also poses interesting challenges for companies on the forefront of transportation innovation. To discuss the future of transportation, Mapbox’s Will White sat down with two experts on the subject: Charlie Prather, UX Designer at TIER Mobility — and Topi Tjukanov, Senior Map Designer at Mapbox.
Together, they shared the challenges TIER faces as a micromobility company and how modern mapping is resolving some of those challenges.
Watch Mapbox Unboxed: Rider's Edition, or read on to learn more about the future of transportation.
TIER and the Challenges of Micromobility
TIER is rethinking urban transportation by offering easy, accessible, and affordable mobility services for all. They provide shared e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-mopeds in urban areas. As TIER continues to grow, they plan on integrating more unique vehicle types and expanding their footprint across continents.
Three vital aspects of TIER’s user experience (UX) are communication, functionality, and adaptability. TIER uses Mapbox to elevate every detail of their UX, and tackle design challenges head-on.
TIER bridges the gap between the digital world and the physical world through optimized communication connecting app and rider. In the micromobility landscape, rules and regulations are constantly changing, and riders must be quickly brought up to speed. Mapbox Studio enables TIER to design solutions for diverse regulated areas like parking zones, speed limits, and restricted zones. Mapbox SDKs deliver these regulation updates faster than major map providers thanks to superior load times.
TIER Mobility developers also needed to find the best UX language for safely communicating with users on-the-move. The development team experimented with the design language in Mapbox Studio, gaining valuable feedback from thousands of users. Once the designers were confident in their UX, they were able to integrate it across all platforms, including physically printing the information in their vehicle's user interface itself. This user-friendly design is perfect for the modern traveler, minimizing confusion and leading to a safe, happy, and loyal ridership.
TIER users are always on-the-go. Therefore, riders rely on the UX to perform flawlessly in unique environments, circumstances, and situations. To optimize functionality, TIER used Mapbox Studio to quickly mock-up situations that can be tested without requiring an entire team of developers. The key was to ensure functionality no matter what. The sun shining down, pouring rain, multiple languages — the user had to be able to successfully execute a task in every circumstance.
By putting their products in “worst-case-scenario” situations, TIER was able to create a much stronger UX than they would have if it was only put to the test in a controlled environment. By setting the language to one that the users did not know, the designers were able to tell if their UX was clear, simple, and practical enough for riders to use intuitively.
As micromobility evolves, companies like TIER need to be quick to adapt to the new state of affairs. TIER is expanding internationally, which means dealing with various requirements regarding regulation, safety, and public-planning. The company must work with local governments and city leaders, and have the ability to make decisions quickly if laws change from one day to the next.
Sudden changes can affect macro decisions by company leadership, to micro changes needed to be made by the UX development team. With each new environment come new challenges, and there is never a one-size-fits-all solution to be had. Plus, diversity of physical environments like street size, bike path availability, road conditions, and sidewalk access all play a part in changing the user experience.
Mapbox and The Future of Transportation Mapping
“The map of the future is not a map. It is much more focused on us. The scale has to be more human.”
- Ed Parsons, Google’s Geospatial Technologist
As transportation continues to evolve, maps must accurately reflect the way humans move through the world. There are three major considerations that map-makers must think about when creating a map: Data inclusion, POV, and dynamic transportation.
Mapbox Data is powered by hundreds of data sources, and a distributed global users base of more than half a billion monthly active users. One of the most interesting challenges for map developers is deciding which data to include, and which not to. Some developers would happily include every blade of grass in the city in their maps. More practical developers must identify and include only information relevant to a certain user, without sacrificing the map’s interface.
POV: The Range of Devices and Screens
Map developers must consider what their maps will look like on a massive heterogeneity of devices and screens. From iPhones and Androids, to desktops, Teslas, and e-bikes, your maps will appear differently on all different screens. Having the capabilities to create transportation maps that work flawlessly across all platforms is hugely important for the future of transportation. Mapbox SDKs enable developers to add fast and dynamic maps across multiple platforms.
Traffic, road closures, inclement weather, and car accidents are all examples of ways in which transportation is always changing. While the weather can be predictable, it’s harder to forecast traffic on a given day at a given time, and developers are competing to conquer this difficult task.
An example of the difficulty mapping traffic is this: A Berlin artist named Simon Weckert rented ninety-nine smartphones, and walked the streets with all of them in a wagon, all running a navigation app. He was able to simulate heavy traffic, leading to app-users avoiding the “bumper-to-bumper” streets, despite the traffic only existing virtually.
Mapbox Traffic Data provides industry-leading accuracy for live and predicted traffic.
Transporting Us Into The Future
Companies like TIER Mobility are leading the way into the future of transportation. Mapbox is right beside them, helping to push, pedal, or throttle into the unknown. To create custom maps that are built with the future in mind, consider Mapbox.