Travel planning can be a hassle: you switch between dozens of apps to put screenshots and links together. When you actually get to the place, it can be more of a headache to move around. Even when you had everything planned out, you can still miss out on things that you wish you could have experienced.
Uber Tour helps you with personalized travel planning, on-demand transportation, and interactive touring guidance, all working seamlessly together to assist you throughout your journey. It responds to your spontaneous ideas or change of plans and offers contextual recommendations that work for you, so you won’t be standing in the middle of the streets trying to figure out what to do.
This is a concept work and is not affiliated with Uber. The Uber logo is a trademark of Uber Technologies, Inc. The Uber Move typeface, and other brand elements can be found at brand.uber.com. They are used here for illustrative purposes.
How It Works
You begin by picking themes that you are interested in this leisure trip. From there, the app breaks them down them into recommended places for you to choose. After making changes here and there, the app offers a comprehensive schedule, at the same time taking into consideration of your fixed stays and trips.
Once you are on the ground, you can quickly call for an Uber and go to your next destination. If you feel like it, you can even ride on a bike or scooter for a scenic view. With Uber’s ecosystem of transportation methods, you can move whichever way you want.
As you walk around, you can get interactive touring guidance with the app — listen to introductions, find things on the map, look up points of interest of a large place, etc. It’s a personal tour guide in your pocket.
Hypothesis & Trends
Touring a city requires moving around frequently. In cities with well-developed public transportation, that’s the primary method. As Uber continues to improve resource allocation and autonomous technologies, guided touring in a private vehicle could be affordable as public transport, while significantly more personal, convenient and comfortable. In addition, Uber can provide a seamless, guided tour across a wide array of transportation methods — in-car, on-bike, walking, etc.
We are seeing trends contributing to that experience:
- Autonomous vehicles will soon be available to consumers. Despite the industry’s recent reality check on the timeline, it is still decidedly achievable in the next five years. Uber is actively developing a ride-sharing service with autonomous vehicles.
- Cities are improving their traffic design to include a more diverse range of transportation methods. Roads are rebuilt for biking and walking to call for a more sustainable and human-friendly experience. Bike renting is becoming more accessible, and city roads continue to improve for biking safety and convenience.
- The ease of access to information has encouraged tourists to decide their schedule on their own instead of buying into an existing packaged experience.
Based on early observations, I began by interviewing millennials that are likely to try out this product — not so solid demographic assumption here but helpful nevertheless. They shared some of their significant travel experience. These ranged from childhood family trips to recent ones with friends. They were also asked about opinions on transportation methods, different types of attractions, and tourist amenities.
Ways to travel
When traveling around the city with public transportation, users usually plan ahead of time. Where to go is often decided before the trip, and a general outline of when to go to places is planned out the night before. Users looked up transportation information and duration on Google Maps for each trip between two attractions. When the schedule did not work, users usually make up a rough plan for the rest of the day right away without a detailed schedule.
In rural and wild areas, it’s more common to book private experience and a human tour guide is considered crucial. Users said they are more comfortable having someone from the local area that can navigate around with ease.
Some travel agencies use taxis as private service cars for customers. A driver would pick up the customer at the airport, drop off at the hotel and pick up the next morning. The driver waits outside an attraction until the customer is ready to leave, or they’llgo around for short taxi pick-ups and come back at a specific time.
Most interviewees are not interested in audio guides. Some think these guides are just boring historical details. They would rather walk around and just see things on their own.
Most interviewees experienced group tour trips, usually with family when they were younger. They do not want to do that in the future and say can plan for a trip on their own.
During research, I had the luck to interview a friend with her partner in California for their vacation in early October. They can be identified as early millennials and work in the tech sector, often trying out new technologies and products. During that interview, they shared with me their detailed plan for that trip and the choices they made.
“I often define a theme for a trip and decide where to go based on that — Japanese design culture, Mediterranean romance, zen journey, American roads, etc.” — a user on vacation in California
Some users expressed that they do not want to scan through famous attractions quickly. They want their tour to be a deep dive into a topic of cultural aspect.
Survey: Pain Points
- Public transportation is hardly enjoyable.
- Searching and planning how to get somewhere is a manual process.
- Transferring between stations and services is complicated.
- Ticketing is cumbersome, and most cities still require cash purchase.
- Nothing to see while on a subway train.
- Planning a day is hard.
- Each location needs to be accounted and each route needs to be planned without automated path calculation.
- How to move in between POIs is highly dependent on available transportation means instead of preference.
- There’s no way to find out extra POIs to explore along the way, ahead of time.
- Planning is so taxing that people choose to tour spontaneously but end up lost, exhausted, or wasting time.
- Limited guidance.
- Audio/human-guided tours are mostly specific to a specific location. The experience starts and ends on-site.
- Most guidance is predefined without little room for personalization.
- Guidance is limited to factual content without engaging discovery.
- In less developed areas, getting help is challenging when traveling alone.
- Rental cars are inflexible.
- Renting a car (including autonomous cars) is an exhausting process.
- Parking takes time and needs walking.
(bus & train)
Professional audio guide
|Can be inaccessible|
Some wait time
Limited time range
Long walk to and inside station
No surrounding view in subway
Long wait time
Limited buses in subway
Designed tour path and audio guide
Deep dive experience
|Use on shuttle buses|
Designed tour path and audio guide
|Walking experience (too long, limited themes)||Mostly poorly designed||Site specific|
- Uber has autonomous on-demand vehicles and bike rental service. They can bridge the experience across all means of personal transportation.
- Uber can easily understand tourists’ behavior better than Google Maps and improve the product quickly. This can also improve resource allocation, reducing costs.
- Uber’s existing capability of dispatching vehicles can be put in use immediately.
- The Uber brand is identified with shared personal transportation.
- Uber has no tourism content to provide—POI detail, reviews, visiting duration, audio commentary, etc.
- As of now, Uber can hardly compare with public transportation. People rarely consider Uber as a city touring option.
- The quality of service requires an abundant amount of autonomous cars. It will take years for Uber to establish such resource maturity.
- Transportation for tourists is always a challenge. Uber can solve that with better cars and resource allocation.
- In-car audio tour guide apps are hard to use and provide every guidance with limited capability of customization.
- Having instantly available cars and resting places is a great experience for tourists.
- Autonomous vehicles don’t have to care about destination and distance, which is perfect for spontaneous touring.
- Google Trips could quickly work with Waymo and provide the same service with existing data. Although, as of now, Google Trips no longer exist. Sad.
- Detour could launch transportation-agnostic experiences that support traditional cars immediately.
- TripAdvisor has quality content and is the go-to service for tourism info. It could advertise a competitor’s product.
- Ride-sharing services like DiDi running in other regions might start the same type of service.
For tourists who want to see and learn more with convenience, Uber Tour is a service that provides fully personalized tour guide info seamlessly across on-demand car riding, scooting, biking, and walking experiences.
- Simplified & automated travel planning
- Personal on-demand transportation
- Location & Interest-based tour guide
Final Design Criteria
- Help users learn more about places.
- Help users travel with comfort.
- Allow users to choose their moving method freely.
- Reduce the work needed for planning trips.
- Be resource-efficient and affordable.
Christine likes to fill up her travel schedule. She wants to see and enjoy as much as possible. Wandering around the city is exhausting for her, and she often ends up on her way home in a taxi when she wants to have more fun. When traveling in some cities, she just rents a car and drives around, but she cannot walk freely away from where she parked. Cycling around the city can be fun, but she cannot easily get a bike, and the streets are sometimes dangerous to bikers. She ends up taking buses and subways to get around but gets bored quickly on a train.
- Photographs everything
- Often plans full schedules but unable to fully complete them
- Likes to get diverse experiences instead of merely looking at things
- Stays at Airbnb homes
- Enjoy as much as possible with limited energy and time
- Experience places and the city in depth instead of just looking at their appearances
- Quickly move between streets and alleys
- Be occupied
Features by Priority
- POI details & introduction
- Walking suggestion
- Average duration of stay
- Optimal route generation
- Theme-based planning
- Popular & related attractions
- Anchored destination for events & shows
- Ambiguous destination / on-demand car
- Pass-by & drop-off preference for places
- Walking experiences
- TripAdvisor details & things to see here
- Ticketing info and reselling
- Navigation on bike/scooter
- Manual vehicle slow down
- Walking and biking score
- Long-distance vehicle options
- Priority settings for each place
- Street view
- General carpool & touring carpool
- Disposable earbuds
- Park & wait
- Belongings storage