During one of our meetings, we met a woman who was walking. Because we were thinking about motivations for travel, we asked her what modes of transportation she’d consider to get to San Francisco and why. Within her list, the motivator that she was felt most strongly about was simple: she didn’t want to get to her destination sweaty. For her, that eliminated many different types of travel such as biking, running, and even walking long distances.
Time and time again, people talked about travelling with their pets. One man even said that on a given day, he’d choose which car to drive based on whether he was bringing along his dog. This makes sense when you consider that 7/10 millennials would take a pay cut in order to bring their dogs to work. We immediately saw this as an opportunity to play on Ford’s “Build Ford Tough” slogan.
We spent a day at Ford understanding the values behind the most passionate group of car-lovers and builders we knew. Midway through a conversation, we had a thought to ask the man we were chatting with to draw his dashboard. What is it he looked through onto the world on a daily basis? What did he choose to bring with him and what mattered? "I always have my gun under my steering wheel and sunflower seeds by my side," he said. Interesting. People’s cars are more than just ways to get around but an external expression of their style and class and an internal expression of their comforts through their “stuff.” The next hour we observed many others depict their car spaces in unique ways - usually starting with the steering wheel and ending on something completely unexpected. This naturally lead to one of our larger research questions: How will individuals in a future of shared or driverless cars express themselves and feel comforted in these transportation spaces?
We did a lot of “interview prototyping” to help us prepare for field interviews. What started out as asking our friends what they thought of Ford, turned into a spontaneous exercise in which we convinced perfect strangers on campus to visit our class for practice interviews. Ultimately, getting comfortable with asking questions in a place with which we were familiar helped prepare us for field interviews in new places like San Francisco with people from all walks of life.
In a presentation to a team at Ford, we heard from a woman named Amy (not actual name) who talked about how she felt like her cars represent her different personalities. She has a family car which reflects her more practical side and the fact that she needs to take care of her kids, as well as a personal car, a convertible, which reflects her desire to have fun and enjoy the act of driving in itself. We thought this was a really cool reflection of the way people want their transportation choices to reflect their identity, whatever it may be in that moment.
One of the most memorable stories that we heard from our interviews at Ford was of a journey that made us smile: a trip with his daughter to drive to random locations. The pair used Instagram to discover photos that they both admired, and then routed themselves to whichever location was tagged for that image. In this way, they used crowd sourced information and a shared photography passion to discover unexplored territory in their own backyard—prompting one of important inquiries over the course of this year: how might we inspire deviation from comfortable travel routines/locations?
A common theme from our interviews was the ease people felt from not having to think about how they’d move around. One of our favorite stories was hearing from a young gentleman who lived within walking distance of campus, but chose to ride-share to class every day. When we asked him "why ride-share?" he simply said "I don't want to think about it."
We had the opportunity to present our prototypes to a diverse group of folks at Ford Innovation Lab. Everything from the open common spaces to the post-its on the wall to the can-do spirit felt like the home we have come to know at Stanford. It wasn’t until after we had finished presenting however, that we learned of the parallels between Ford’s prototypes and ours, that we felt the surreal like-mindedness of our work.
A friend on campus, lamenting her lack of time to exercise, decides to build her exercise into her transportation. By walking everywhere on campus (to classes, meetings, social obligations), she maximizes time and happiness. This story of simple preference calculations launched our first prototype, Motivators over Modes: an exploration into the motivations behind travel, and how that leads to selection of travel modes.