Let's GET HOme

A human-centered research project and redesign of the CMU Shuttle Escort Services.

Recent events in the greater Carnegie Mellon University area has members of our community feeling unsafe and uneasy. This research and design project investigates public safety in and around campus and identifies a key area for intervention.


User Research
User Interaction

Jason Zhu
Rachel Lee


Our final poster outlining our research process and the journey to our solution.

For 3 weeks, my classmates and I investigated public safety on campus, leaning into the different experiences students and faculty had surrounding the topic. After pinpointing the CMU Escort Shuttle, our school's sole commuter program, as a space for intervention, we conducted ethnographic research, facilitated interviews and cultural probes before proposing a redesign of the shuttle.

01/ Perception

The escort shuttle suffers from a poor reputation in part because the university provides inadequate information about the escort service and its key features.
02/ Waiting Period

Live tracking does not inform riders of the exact times when the shuttle will arrive at pickup stops. This leaves riders with no choice but to wait for extended periods.
03/ Performance

The shuttle can take upwards of an hour to deliver passengers home. Many riders blamed poor route planning as the current system relies solely on driver intuition.
04/ Drivers

Riders note that they often felt uneasy or even unsafe because they did not know who was driving them home.

By optimizing the route home, we believe the reputation of the CMU Escort Shuttle will improve and sequentially, increase its usage. With more students using the CMU Escort Shuttle, campus public safety will better as well.

01/ ID Card or QR Code Scanning

Since ID cards are already embedded with the cardholder's residence information and prove university affiliation, students and faculty can scan their IDs or if they planned their route on the mobile app, scan a QR code generated by the app that carries their updated destination.

02/ Efficient Route Planning

After the system retrieves each rider's address, an algorithm will determine the most efficient drop off route to expedite travel time. This information is relayed to the driver's GPS console.

03/ Live Tracking

Estimated arrival time to pickup stops will be calculated and viewable alongside the shuttle's most updated location via the existing mobile app for more efficient trip planning. Route information will provided to the riders via a screen on the shuttle and the mobile app.
Escort Shuttle Mobile App

01/ Drop-off Input

Riders are greeted on the app with a friendly night-mode display signifying the nocturnal themes of their activity. From the home screen, they can input their planned destination, utilize their pre-saved residential address or place a pin on the map.

02/ Bus Times Selection

After inputting their destinations, the app will aggregate a rider's data alongside other rider's planned destinations and calculate predicted journey times according to upcoming bus stop pick-up times. Given predicted arrival time, journey time and bus arrival time, riders can choose which time they wish to head out and know exactly which bus stop is closest and which shuttle to look out for. They can set up push notifications which will notify them when the bus is soon approaching.

02/ En-route and Arrival

Riders will be given directions to head to the nearest bus stop for pick up and once in the shuttle, can learn around when their shuttle will arrive at their destination. After being dropped off, they will be encouraged to confirm their arrival to CMU, informing the administration that they have completed their trip safely.


In order to gain a better understanding of the people and their differing kinds of involvement in CMU’s public safety, we began by creating territory and experience maps. We were then able to pinpoint the CMU Escort Shuttle as the service to examine and its off-campus student users as the demographic to consult.

01/ Riding the Shuttle

One of many photos we took of the CMU Escort Shuttle in action.

By experiencing the shuttle first-hand, we gained a better understanding of the formal and informal procedures when riding the shuttle. We observed the shuttle’s passengers and drivers, their interactions with one another and noted the artifacts involved as well. Our most interesting finding was how passengers verbally informed drivers of their destinations, which were then handwritten on a piece of paper.

02/ Mapping Safety

Our compiled safety maps with a colored overlay of the shuttle's areas of operation

Stationed in university common areas, we invited off-campus student residents to pinpoint where they felt most unsafe during their nightly commutes. By cross referencing this data with the shuttle’s areas of operation, we were able to reason out the possibility that the shuttle was not servicing areas that community members might need the service in the most.

03/ Interviews

Preview of our data collection sheet
We returned to the same common spaces and conducted interviews with students living off-campus. Our questions were centered around their familiarity with the service and possible issues they, as users and non-users, had with the service. All together, we collected 126 unique responses.