By James Glasnapp, Senior User Experience Researcher, PARC

Mobility is rapidly changing as people look for alternatives to getting in their cars to drive solo from point A to point B. Especially in urban areas, there are a lot of factors that detract from this option: cost, parking, convenience. Experience and research has proven that public transportation options don’t work for everyone, and even for the people who use them, they’re often far from perfect.

The alternatives started with Uber and Lyft, but now those ride-hailing services are becoming more and more saturated. It’s also simply too expensive for employees with long commutes to take advantage of these ride-hailing services, even if they’re pooled with multiple people in the car.

This brings us to the new mobility frontier: Getting drivers of single-occupancy cars to accept rides from other people along their commute. Of course, the idea of carpooling is not a new one. But the idea of using technology to enable carpooling is.

I’ve spent the past four years here at PARC studying user needs in the area of mobility. Based on work done with transit riders in Los Angeles and Denver, cities where Xerox Mobility Marketplace has been introduced, and direct experience as a rider and driver for three different carpooling offerings being piloted in the Bay Area, I’ve developed a set of requirements that a successful carpooling offering will need to incorporate in order to be successful. Here they are:

  1. The offering must be equally rider- and driver-centric. Some offerings cater more to one or the other, but both riders and drivers must experience a version of the system that makes them feel as though the system was built for them.
  1. The price must be enough to incentivize the driver but not too much that the rider won’t want to pay. From my perspective, the right amount is less than competing alternatives like Uberpool or LYFT Line. Additionally, even if the mileage rate is attractive, the length of the ride must also match driver expectations for compensation.
  1. The routes must be in the sweet zone. The length of the ride-share is important and so is the distance drivers have to go out of their way to pick up the rider in the first place. Routes must be in what I call the sweet zone: the distance one must deviate from a usual journey in order to pick up riders.
  1. The system must be able to learn and improve. Riders and drivers should be able to give feedback on quality of routes and riders, for instance. A mechanism to gather that feedback should be built into the app.
  1. The drivers should have moderate insight and control into how and when they receive ride requests. Basic permissions and notification settings are necessary.
  1. Drivers and riders should feel safe and comfortable. With carpooling, drivers and riders are both concerned about safety, privacy, and comfort. People care who they are going to spend time with in close quarters for the longer periods of time that characterize a carpool.
  1. The carpool culture should be determined. Although the driver often dictates the culture, it would be great for systems to publish their own suggested etiquette for both riders and drivers.
  1. Customization options should increase as usage grows. Giving riders and drivers the ability to drill down to more specific requests— a quieter car, a limited number of pickups, and smoking and eating options – will be possible as the number of riders and drivers expands in a system.
  1. The option for drivers to take multiple riders should be available. Riders may in the end be willing to pay more for a solo ride, but allowing for multiple riders would bring costs down for the riders, while the driver could earn more—even more of a win if the riders live or work in close geographic proximity to each other.

This is an exciting time for mobility. We’re launching into an era where we’ll have multiple affordable options for daily transport. As we research adding private ridesharing to our mobility solution, Xerox stands to create one of the first one-stop travel experiences that’s meticulously designed for the best user experience, whether that user is a driver or a rider.

This article was first published in “Innovator’s Brief for the Transportation Industry,” a periodic eNewsletter with the latest news about innovation in transportation.

Click here to subscribe to the Innovator’s Brief.