Instead of taking a packed bus, simply order an autonomous shuttle on demand via an app to quickly and conveniently get to your destination. Sound far-fetched?
That’s the idea behind “APEROL”. Not just the name of a popular drink, it’s also the acronym for the “Autonome, PERsonenbezogene Organisation des Straßenverkehrs und digitale Logistik” (Autonomous Personal Organization of Road Traffic and Digital Logistics) research project funded by the Federal Ministry for Road Traffic and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI).
APEROL and the Future of Mobility
Road traffic is undergoing a process of transformation. These days some solutions for electromobility in cities are already visible: renting eScooters using an app is just one example. Even the issue of autonomous driving (traveling in driverless vehicles) is all over the media, conjuring up high expectations as to the way in which people will be moving and goods be transported in the future. To meet these expectations, cohesive solution concepts are needed that take the individual requirements of citizens and businesses into account.
In developing human-centered concepts for the mobility of the future for APEROL, Ergosign is working closely with partners from research and industry. Among the project partners the chairs of i5, WZL, ICE and HCIC at the RWTH Aachen, the Institute for Software Systems at Trier University, e.Go mobile AG, PSI Logistics GmbH, MAT.TRAFFIC GmbH and the City of Aachen are represented.
The Project’s Central Elements and Core Issues
At the beginning of the project, we joined our partners to work out the project’s main challenges. Of course, it all boils down to software development in the end - but we first wanted to completely understand the problem and establish our approach. The discussion covered citizen participation (“What do citizens expect from an autonomous system of this nature?”), possible pilot and test operations (on dedicated test grounds and later Aachen’s infrastructure), the creation of a simulation environment and the analysis of our solutions’ transferability to other cities.
In more specific terms, the Ergosign team dealt with the following questions:
How can autonomous driving be used efficiently to transport people and goods?
How can potential passengers interact with the autonomous driving service before, during and after the journey?
How can future mobility concepts be efficiently conceptualized across various disciplines and companies?
How can human-machine interfaces be developed and evaluated for autonomous vehicles?
Collaborative UX Design in Project APEROL
The development of a mobility service requires close, coordinated collaboration between Ergosign and the industry/research partners involved. Countless factors have to be kept in mind in the scenario in question: planning the journeys, logistical organization, the combination of various user routes, taking remaining battery charge into consideration, inter-vehicle communication, interaction between passengers and autonomous vehicle etc. In the interdisciplinary cooperation across the participating project partners we apply methods of Collaborative UX Design. The photo shows a concept workshop at Ergosign’s headquarters in Saarbrücken. See our Insights article Collaborative UX Design-Workshops 1 and 2 to find out about these methods in more detail.
"The methodical approach in the concept workshop allowed a goal-oriented discussion of technical and design matters across the boundaries of disciplines and companies. At the same time, this created an open, motivating atmosphere."
Lukas FlohrSpecialist Mobility
Iterative Development Process
For application in the real world, the “e.Go Mover” from e.Go Moove AG comes into play: a fully electrical minibus with space for up to 15 people, ideal for local passenger transport as well as private and commercial transport (source: e.Go Homepage). The e.Go Mover serves as the basis for vehicle development.
But the concepts and the assumptions they are based on need to be reviewed beforehand. In the sense of the human-centered design process, this took place iteratively - across all development phases. The major aim is to create usable systems that result in a positive user experience. Involving potential users and analyzing their requirements increases the system’s effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability as well as human wellbeing in relation to the service - promising a satisfied user in the end. The use context takes on a vital role especially when deriving user needs as well as the design and evaluation based on these.We were met with a few hurdles when evaluating our concepts on autonomous driving. Real attempts to test the systems in a use context are not only very labor-intensive but also expensive and only possible in very restricted scenarios. So we’re purposefully working on solutions for the cost-effective evaluation of our concepts, contextualizing even in the early phases.
To sum it up
APEROL’s aim is to offer solutions to the “first and last mile” issue of public transport. To this end, Ergosign is creating interfaces between humans and machines, and analyzing these constantly. In future work sections, the app design and development will be evaluated and validated.
Addendum: The project is being funded under the “automated and networked driving” funding guideline of the Federal Ministry for Road Traffic and Digital Infrastructure with a total contribution of €4,691,277.