This project was done in the class DES INV 181: Reimagining Mobility taught by Purin Phanichphant, and I worked with my teammates Yoyo Ko and Andrew Briggs. The prompt for the project was "how might we use autonomous vehicles beyond moving people", and our design solution aimed at addressing the need for more accessible and convenient healthy food options.
Freshest is an autonomous salad truck that goes directly from farm to consumers. The goal of Freshest is to make salads more accessible with the following three approaches:
In order to gain insights into the problem space, we conducted research using the following methods to better understand user behaviors and current pain points.
We started out the project with a quite general problem space:
How might we use autonomous vehicles to do things beyond moving people?
We started defining the scope of our project by doing a mind-mapping activity. After brainstorming for areas and potential functions related to the future of autonomous vehicles, we decided to narrow down to the transportation of food, including the supply chain, the service sector, and the food delivery process.
After defining the general scope, we conducted interviews with students, barista, and amateur chef to investigate their respective painpoints and potential opportunity spaces. In the meantime, we dived into secondary research about existing products to learn about the current landscape and gain some inspirations.
We wrapped up the first round of research by creating a research board with post-its, pictures, and articles that we found inspirational for the next steps.
As we conducted and compiled our research findings, we came to discover an opportunity space that all three of us found interest in, which was the transportation of healthy food, such as salad, which is made up of relatively fresh ingredients. To better understand the problem space and identify user needs, we decided to take a closer look at both the supply and end user sides of the salad transportation and consumption experience.
With this statement in mind, I created a survey that asked about college students’ daily food decisions. We collected 46 responses in total and identified the major barriers between students and healthy eating, which was lack of affordability and access.
Here are some of the key quotes that helped us gain some insights into students’ needs:
“Why eat expensive healthy when you can eat better cheap food”
“Food to you not you to food”
“Streamlined and transparent serving process -- you can see and identify all the ingredients before your eyes”
In addition, we were also able to identify 2 major user groups. One group values convenience and low price, whereas the other group values the dining experience and social interaction that takes place within the process.
In addition to understanding the end consumers’ needs, we also did some research on the supply chain of salad ingredients. We took lettuce as a typical example and did a more in-depth analysis of painpoints at the system level.
After identifying the need for accessible and affordable healthy food, we started ideating for ways to introduce the use of autonomous vehicles. Instead of brainstorming for individual product concepts, we aimed to come up with the magical “wow moments” that could be incorporated into the process.
The team voted for the top three ideas to expand on and each of us made a one-page to elaborate on the concept. The idea that we decided to proceed with was the salad truck idea that I focused on.
As previously mentioned, from our research, we identified two user groups in terms of dining preferences. We initially wanted to accommodate the needs of both groups by including a seating area in the truck and a fast ordering process for those who need grab-and-go.
However, our idea pivoted after we conducted an expert interview with Greg Becker, the founder of Bbox. Bbox is an automated cafe located on Berkeley campus that makes and serves coffee and pastry using robots. Greg mentioned that there are tradeoffs between users who value convenience verses fine dining experience. The use of automation would enable saving of two large costs, which are rent and labor cost, but it will not be an option to replace brick and mortar accounts.
After considering the findings from our research earlier and the insights from the conversation with Greg, we decided to pivot our idea towards the needs of users who value fast and convenient dining experience.
The shift in direction and target user group prompted us to reconsider the size of our vehicle, the system of operation, as well as the whole experience delivered to the user. With another brainstorming session, we came up with a reframed HMW statement:
How might we be able to design, serve, deliver students on campus cheap, fresh salads conveniently with automation?
Our final concept has three main areas of focus supported by various features that we came up with:
We also make the ordering and pickup process fast and easy for our end users.
With the introduction of autonomous vehicles, our vision for Freshest would expand beyond a certain opening time and eventually be able to operate 24/7 and potentially provide special night-time delivery services with a parent-child system that dispatches smaller bots to deliver our Freshest salads.
Freshest can also be expanded outside of campus — work district, parks in the city, music festivals… With the advantage of mobility, it is possible to plant our Freshest trucks anywhere.
We can also go beyond salads and expand our menu — it could be smoothies, acai bowls, sandwiches… with our vertical integration that guarantees the freshness of ingredients, the future of Freshest could also unleash the possibility of more food choices.