MOVETOGETHER

ETHNOGRAPHY: BELIEFS and BEHAVIORS ABOUT CArPOOLING


Context

How can we bring the collaborative consumption trend to the road?
This project was done pre-Uber / Lyft.

The goal of this Stanford thesis project was to re-imagine the carpooling experience to live in a world with fewer cars on the road. We dissected the experience of carpooling and sharing goods. We spoke to couch surfers (analogous users), we talked to people who use a self-organizing carpool across the Oakland Bridge, we hitchhiked and we offered free rides home from the train station. We also organized a carpool for students to share rides to the grocery store (everything is far on the farm!). The goal of this project was not necessarily an end-product, but to prototype and gain deeper insight about the experience.


KEY QUESTIONS

What are people's beliefs about carpooling? What motivates the driver? What motivates the rider? What preconceived notions do people have about carpooling? Who carpools currently? Why? What sacrifices have to be made when carpooling? 

What is the experience of carpooling like? What is it like for the driver? For the rider? What circumstances / contexts are better for carpooling? Which are worse?

What changes when payment is involved? How should payment work? When should the payment occur? How should the price be determined?


INSIGHTS

BASED ON ETHNOGRAPHY, ANALOGOUS USERS AND PROTOTYPING

  • Car space is extremely personal. People are more willing to share their couch than their car. Cars can be more personal, because they are often not a space commuters typically share with anyone, where as living rooms are at least shared with roommates or family. People also have really specific habits when it comes to driving - music, heat control - and they don’t want to compromise. Finally, the person is sitting right next to you for an extended period of time, so it feels awkward not to speak to them, but talking is tiring. That said, awkwardness drastically dissipated when there are 2 or more riders as compared to a single rider. 
  • Safety is a big concern. Drivers don’t want to be responsible for others and riders are wary of drivers. 
  • People don’t want to be inconvenienced, especially the drivers. They want to travel on their time, their way, with minimal scheduling, and minimal thinking. It was very hard to incentivize the drivers (two-sided market with a lack of supply).
    => A monetary relationship akin to cabbie-rider may make the most sense.
  • Payment for carpooling is awkward. How much to pay? When to pay? No norms in place. Perhaps better to follow system similar to a taxi fare with a transparent running meter.