Today Laura Rhoney, ESP’s Marketing Manager, interviews our business designer Steven Russell to hear more about how the Capri project is progressing.
Q: What is Capri and how is ESP involved?
A: Capri is a collaborative project pushing forward the technology that will enable shared autonomous vehicles (AV) to operate in the UK. The ESP Group is leading the user engagement work, making sure that when the technology is deployed into the real world that it can be used by real people in a way that is both desirable and useful for them. We also lead the work to develop sustainable business cases for the deployment of Capri’s autonomous pods. In this we are exploring what kind of business models could make these new services viable for deployment in a way that is valuable to both the sites as proprietors, and the riders themselves. Finally, ESP will integrate our omni-channel support, customer management and smart ticketing services with the Capri service and explore what people expect from them at trials.
Q: What have you been up to across the first 10 months?
A: With Capri’s first set of trials ending today (19th July 2018), we have been on site with the University of the West of England (UWE), supporting their research into the user experience of travelling in the Pod.
Across the first 10 months our prime focus has been to engage a variety of users in the design process. (A full write up of this work can be found on the Capri site HERE.). Working closely with UWE throughout, we have facilitated the interactive participation of over 100 people. This is helping us to understand the broad picture of who might use a Capri style service, when, where and why, but also the more intricate interactions people expect to make across the full end-to-end service experience.
From this engagement, the research team has analysed our findings and generated a series of user recommendations for what any shared AV service needs to deliver. Based on these we have created an outline service design for a generic Capri service, considering what it might look like and how it could be tailored for use on different sites.
We have also started technical work internally exploring how some of our services and technologies can be tailored to the AV market. We will work with other consortium partners to explore collaborative opportunities around these technologies.
Q: When you have been talking to people, how have they reacted?
A: People have generally been excited by the project! For many, we are involving them in a technology that may have seemed a long way off. They have felt empowered through the process of getting involved and generally want to help shape what this future service could look like. There has been a mix of views regarding the attraction of autonomous vehicles, from instant acceptance to prolonged scepticism from the wide range of participants. This mirrors a recent ESP social media poll in which 50% respondents said they would ‘jump at the chance to try an AV service’ and the other 50% split across ‘nervously giving it a try’ and those who wanted to ‘wait to find out more.’
A big insight from our work to date has been the need to build trust in a service – not just in the technology itself but also in the brand, the service model, and the people who will share the space within the pod. All of which we are keen to explore as we continue our design work.
Another of our polls showed that information on the service’s usability was what riders would seek out first, over technical info (14%), reviews by others (14%) and media reports (0%). This suggests people are already accepting of the concept and keen to find out how to access it.
Q: How do people expect to interact with the service?
A: This has really been dependent on a range of factors revolving mainly around 4 key considerations: 1) who the individual user is, 2) where the deployment is, 3) why they are using it and 4) the cost of use. An example would be how willing people are to fully embrace technology: We have had people sharing their thoughts from both ends of the spectrum – some wanting to download apps and being happy to hand over data in the pursuit of a seamless personalised service. Others, on the other hand, preferred to use the service anonymously, in a pay-as-you-go setup, with no relationship with the service outside of their single journey.
Similarly, when exploring comfort and how polished the service needs to be, expectations differ considerably if people are considering a short shuttle helping transport them through a restricted area compared to a pod tour of a city.
Looking again at some of our Twitter polls, which asked how people expect to pay for and validate their journey, people have been divided across traditional methods like printed tickets, smart cards, digital apps and even smart wear. Surprisingly not many people expect to be fully connected with no need to show a ticket as everything will be automated (only 8%). This is an interesting insight for our team at ESP Systex who deliver payment solutions across the transport sector.
There is also good news for ESP’s Journeycall as, when asked about getting support, 80% of people want to speak to a real human. Chatbots, avatars have all been mentioned for simple queries and information but when things go wrong the vast majority want the reassurance of a real human – either through a direct audio link with the pod, or even see someone responding on live video.
Q: What is happening next for ESP in Capri?
A: With the first trial now complete, ESP will be working with the various user-facing technical partners to prototype the service that has been designed through our user engagement. The goal is to continuously test and improve the different aspects of the Capri service in preparation for our next trial at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway Bristol. This second trial will be open to members of the public and aims to test a truer representation of how people might experience the service in the real world.
ESP’s Journeycall and Systex are two of the partners delivering user touchpoints and we are excited to see how some of our existing service offerings can be tailored for use in these new shared autonomous vehicles, to provide the most value to the riders. In tandem with this we will be continuing our exploration of suitable business models for the different deployment sites where autonomous pods can offer value, with the goal of developing a viable business case for investment.
Watch this space. For more information on the Capri project please visit HERE.
or follow them on twitter HERE.
If you are interested in our work in the future mobility space or how we can make our services work for you, please get in touch …. Our team are always interested to chat.