Hertz - Self-Drive
My team designed our prototype for a self-driving Hertz rental over the existing Uber rideshare app. The concept of summoning your rental car and having the fee based on time and distance was very close to the Uber model. We added in some features specific to the driverless and rental situation.
Problems and Goals
Hertz has seen a decrease in it’s short term car rentals. This is due to car share services like ZipCar, Getaround, and City CarShare. Car share has changed the way people rent cars. Share cars are parked on neighborhood streets and are available on an hourly basis. This kind of convenience cannot be matched by a typical brick and mortar car rental location. For Hertz to maintain a foothold in this short term rental market they have two choices:
- start their own car share in the United States.
2. find a different path to meet changing customer needs.
Hertz has built it’s business on customer service and now that dedication to service must result in adding a new mode of rental.
- Conceive/ edit interview questions.
- Conduct interviews.
- Create paper prototypes, simple paper mockups of what the app might include and user flows.
- Conduct user testing.
- Synthesize collected data, the attitudinal information we got from our interviews and the behavioral results from user testing.
- Time boxed ideation. We did a Design Studio exercise that circumvents your internal editor and taps into a stream of consciousness creative process.
- Create mid-fidelity Sketch wireframes. The team designed the original wireframes in Sketch, we got feedback from our presentation and I did the design included herein.
- Create Invision demo, a video recording of the user flow.
We began by looking at what modes of vehicle mobility were out there.
We then interviewed anyone we could find with experience in car rental, car share, and ride share. Although these rental and share modes appeal to different user needs, they exert strong influence on each other. There is also a lot of customer crossover— as the modes have become more flexible, so have the customers. It was very relevant to look at all aspects of vehicle usage.
We began our project by interviewing 6 people. Not one person had used Hertz car rental within the past ten years, but they all had recent experience with car share or ride share. The only interest in car rental was when a trip involved flying. Here the convenience of renting upon arrival was a big plus for the traditional car rental companies. Ultimately, however, if the customer did not fly they would not use Hertz, and that is a big loss of business.
With this small interview set we created a persona who would be representative of a diverse group of users. Most of our interviewees were in their 20’s, didn’t own cars and were looking for the best and most cost efficient way to get around. We named our persona Joey and saw her as a younger person.
- does not own a car and does not want hassles of owning a car, maintenance, costs, general additional responsibilities
- convenience in
- pickup time and rental duration
- less paperwork
- transparency of costs, no hidden fees, included mileage, no penalties
- prefers ethical business practices - especially related to ride share
- always available customer service
Ideate and Iterate
We had developed a persona and had an understanding of the basics of what users were looking for. We were excited to see how we could apply this to some new ideas for Hertz.
Seeing as though 80% of our users found Hertz locations to be inconvenient, my team worked on that issue first. We thought that in dense urban and suburban areas we could have employees move cars around and in some cases deliver cars via bicycle. Every car would have a bike rack and when the car was in the desired location, employees would take the bike off the rack and ride to the next car or to the nearest Hertz location.
We liked the low tech aspect, it was very achievable and very environmentally sensitive. It could be done with existing facilities. We made a paper prototype and did some testing.
Users saw the environmental appeal of the concept, but had concern for the employees. What would they do in inclement weather, and how safe was it for cyclists at night? The bike rack was also a concern with a number of people thinking it might be in the way. Our impression was that people thought it was too far out of an idea.
We put a time limit to our next design session to see what kind of innovation that constraint would bring up.
Continuing with the environmentally sensitive approach, the team wanted to work with solar energy. Could we put panels on the cars? Would it make a difference? Could we have solar powered charging stations? How big of an array of panels would it require? Would solar power stations add to location inconvenience? Would charging time add to the time inconvenience? It seemed like it was a solution that added to complexity without clearly solving the issues.
By then we were running short on time and someone blurted out, well what about driverless cars? We had all heard about them as something in our future, but there was not much press for them at the time (early fall 2016).
There was a pause while we let the idea sink in.
If we supposed that this technology is ready for use, it would alleviate the problems that Hertz was having. Location would be solved by having the car summoned to the customer’s location. As for timing, it was on demand. Environmentally, cars would just park themselves in appropriate areas when the rental term was over, saving on fuel used on the return trip to rental location.
Driverless cars may eventually alter the rideshare business and it could perhaps just as easily change the car rental business. Hertz Self-Drive would have the convenience of ride share, the transparency and simplicity of a time based fee, and the advantages of a regularly maintained fleet.
It might be the innovative change that Hertz is after.
User Testing the Prototype
We got feedback about security concerns and knowing that the car that you were about to get into was the correct car. We also heard requests that there be a hold car function in the app for stops made along the way. Editing your destination within the app along the way was also important as there was no driver to speak to. The ability to summon the central dispatching authority was a necessary safety consideration as the comfort of being able to reach someone will be taking the place of having a driver in the car.
We incorporated the ability to contact someone from within the app. There is a button on every page once a passenger is in the car. We also put an RFID sensor in the car that would verify your phone even if you were out of range for wifi and mobile service.
Here’s What We Learned
This was an opportunity to delve into attitudinal research about what people were feeling about a major brand and how that was affecting their behavior. There is a new found flexibility with customers in how they are approaching their modes of transportation. If Hertz does not want to jump into the car share game in the US and they don’t want to give up the short term rental market share, something has got to give.
It might just take a leap frog step like looking to the near future of driverless cars and how they might be used in the traditional rental car business.