The next-generation public transportation experience

Interview    Rapid  Prototyping    Bodystorming    Usability Testing

Project Summary

School Project, 4 people, 4 weeks

Future public transportation services
will be improved a lot by technology, such as an intelligent transportation system.

In this project, we built on our knowledge and skills to design and prototype an experience that is distributed across multiple channels to support public transportation.

My Role

In this 4-week project, my major contributions were building the user journey map and working as a facilitator in the bodystorming stage. Meanwhile, I did user research, sketches, and prototype as well.

Facilitating bodystorming was an important component in our design because we emphasised the experience in both the virtual and physical world. And it helped us dig deeper into the holistic user experience in public transportation.

World Building

In the year 2048, Florida and California went underwater due to global warming. In order to bring new hope to the American people, the government has decided to role out a New Deal. Inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from 1933, this New Deal will provide new eco-friendly infrastructure.

The government hopes the jobs that will be generated through the New Deal will help to revitalize the currently failing economy.  The first project to be rolled out is Hitch, an autonomous vehicle that will be the only form of public transportation.  The United States is primarily urban areas, which Hitch will capitalize on.  

Learning About Users

In order to gain a better understanding of what people think about current public transportation, we interviewed 4 people.

In addition, we made a comparison between public transportation and ride-sharing services to inspire us to develop interesting ideas for the future world.

Beyond A Persona

Persona is useful as it helps us stress users' painpoints and needs during the design process. However, it is also important to learn from diversity and bring as many users as we can into the service design. Thus, we created a Persona Spectrum based on secondary research we did.

Asking Questions

In a world with AI and autonomous drives, how the bus service could be? We started ideating possible services.

Instead of diving into detailed solutions directly, we used sketching to discuss questions like: will users be able to call a bus like calling an Uber? Will users still need a ticket? What the space inside the bus will look like.

With some blurry ideas in our minds, we decided to stop and return to understand the transportation experience.

Since this service design includes both physical and digital experience, we use methods like bodystroming to gain hands-on insights.


To understand the whole service experience of taking a bus, we used several chairs to simulate bus seats One of us acted as the AI driver. I was the faciliator. My background in urban design helped me a lot during this process.

We role-played the whole public transportation service. This bodystorming helped us think through all touchpoints in the service and make the Experience Map.

Visualizing The Experience

The Bodystorming helped us to identify many touchpoints where users might interact with the service. And these touchpoints are exactly where we can implement the design to improve the experience. In order to think about the holistic experience and design it seamlessly, we visualized the whole service by making an experience map.

By understanding users' emotions in different stages, we developed some potential design strategies. As our background is a high-tech world, we assume that all buses are autonomous. We focused on two main strategies: 1) the bus can be ordered as an Uber service; 2) we redesign the bus interior space to make it tailored to different people's needs.

Better-than-Uber Bus Services

The AI and autonomous driving technology enable users to call a bus just like call an Uber. The user could use an app to schedule, find, and evaluate the bus service.

Both wearable devices and smartphones were considered in the design. We septically thought about how users will find their bus. There will not be any bus stops. The bus will arrive at the location that is nearest to the user. However, there might be several Hitch around the user, and the shape of the bus might look the same. Thus, we used color to help users identify their bus.

When the bus arrives, it shows a unique color which aligns with the color on the app. Taking color-blind users into consideration, we add texts on the color. Then, with the help of NFC technology, they can get on the bus by moving their devices close to the bus.

A Customizable Interior Space

Based on the insights in the user research and experience map, users 'needs vary a lot. Some prefer a more isolated and private space. Some would like to enjoy the bus time with their family.

Since AI buses do not need drivers, it leaves a larger interior space. We make each seat rotatable. Users can rotate seats to make a space they like. Accessibility was considered as well.

App Is One Part of The Experience

We quickly made a paper prototype of the App that users use to call a bus and test it with users. The app is only one part of the overall experience.

With the App, the user can schedule a bus with both voice and graphic interface. They can choose the departure time or arrival time. They can also choose the bus type based on their needs. After the trip, they can evaluate it.

How Is The Design

To understand the disconnections and deficiencies in our design, we invited 4 participants to go through the whole experience with chairs, paper prototype, and human-acted AI system.

Positive feedbacks:
We found that users can understand the whole design because it is similar to calling an Uber. They loved the idea of customizable seats. And they think the color is obvious enough for them to find the bus.

When using the NFC, the participant did not know where he should move his phone. There is also a lack of reminders that tell users to use NFC to get on the bus.

We found most of the problems happened because users never used this service before. After they know how to use it, the design makes sense. Thus, we decided to add some instructions in our iteration.

Learning By Prototyping

To polish details in our design, we prototyped several key interfaces.

One of our main goals was to let users find their Hitch easily. Since we let Hitch show a unique color to make themselves easier to be identified, we designed a color reminder on the App to help users find their Hitch. The blue reminder will be moved upper when the Hitch has arrived so that it will notify users more effectively.

A smartwatch can help users find the status of their Hitches easily. To remind users of using NFC to get on the Hitch, a notification will pop-up when the Hitch find the user is 3 meters around it.


In addition to digital app design, we considered physical space on the bus, the way how people find the bus, and other touchpoints beyond the phone and watch as well. Bodystorming and experience maps helped us think about the holistic experience rather than isolated touchpoints. During this project, we used chairs and sticky notes to help us act out and embodied our design. This is an inspiring way to design for a futuristic context because it makes the context more tangible.

We did have some time management issues in this project. We aimed to create a holistic experience in the whole service journey. However, focusing on too many design potentials made us exhausted. We put too much time and effort into thinking about the physical space design, so we did not have enough time to consider the app design very well.