For the past year, I have been researching how ride-hailing technology can be improved to better accommodate older adults. See my publication in the Stanford digital repository.
Although existing research indicates the potential for ride-hailing apps to address mobility challenges and improve the quality of life for older adults, the proportion of older adults adopting this technology is growing proportionally at a much slower rate. This thesis aims to answer the research question: what design affordances are being made by ride-hailing companies for older adults, and how can the design be improved to better accommodate an aging population? To answer the first part of the research question, I used mixed methods to address four key areas of communication, presentation, implementation, and perception of the technology. First, I conducted a content analysis of the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center and Uber and Lyft blog posts and webpages to understand communication of the product. The key themes identified from the content analysis informed the presentation studies; I conducted a product evaluation of the Uber and Lyft apps and observational study at the San Francisco International Airport, a key area of ride-hailing usage in the United States. Finally, to understand the perception of the app, I conducted a survey that yielded 380+ responses across 45 states, and interviews with 10 older adult participants from suburbs and major cities within Santa Clara and Los Angeles County. This thesis concludes that 1) older adults face a combination of technical and physical usability challenges that result in safety and comfort concerns in using ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, and 2) there is a significant need for further research into the intersection of digital apps and transportation for older adults. Ultimately, this thesis offers novel data into current older adult interactions with ride-hailing systems, and provides insights and implications for the future of aging and mobility that can be used by designers, researchers, and policymakers.