Tongle is a cross-device system that records mileage and syncs the data with a paired phone app, which allows drivers to view, contest, and pay for their road usage.
With an increase in average fuel efficiency, funding roads with a gasoline tax is no longer sustainable. Washington State has proposed a per-mile tax based on miles driven, called the Road Usage Charge. In order to accomplish this policy, the state needs a way to verify the numbers of miles driven.
As a final deliverable, my team proposed Tongle, an app that pairs with an external device to ensure fair and convenient mileage recording. Our project has won several awards along with a grant.
1. Record locally. Sync with the phone app – save people's phone batteries
The external device, plugged into a car's OBD-II port, records and stores a car's trip data. The ability to locally record mileage prevents large battery consumption as our research found that drivers don't want their batteries to drain due to the RUC mileage meter.
2. View, verify, and pay on your phone – apply the proper per-mile rate
The coupled app allows users to view, contest, and pay for their road usage. They can also set up auto-payment cycle and method for their convenience.
3. Retain control of privacy settings – respect drivers' privacy
Some drivers negatively perceived mileage recording as "being tracked by the government." To gain their trust, our design lets users enable GPS for specific trips and protect their privacy.
Design Process: building citizen-centered design
To end with these concepts, our team sat down with drivers from all over Washington State. Over the span of workshops, we together explored and evaluated different RUC methods. Our participants' perspectives revealed a core set of needs to be addressed in our designs. We used rapid prototyping method to build and iterate our design solution that sought to effectively address the tensions between those needs.
Visual Identity of Tongle: Friendly, Trustworthy, and Efficient
My secondary roles included developing a style guide and visual identity of Tongle. I aimed to create a visual look that conveys friendliness, trustworthy, and efficiency because many citizens tended to perceive tax systems as something complicated.
Presentation and Awards
We presented our project at the 2017 HCDE Capstone Open House, the biggest annual public event held by the department of Human Centered Design and Engineering. We also presented at the Smartphone Innovation Challenge held by the Mobility Innovation Center, the Washington State Transportation Commission, and select consulting team members.
Our project received positive reactions from both general public and our sponsors/clients. Along with a grant from the UW College of Engineering, we were awarded the Best in Show out of 14 HCDE undergraduate projects and Excellence out of 4 multidisciplinary (2 HCDE, 1 Informatics, and 1 Electric Engineering) capstone teams.
“The participatory design approach was really exciting.... Instead of government concocting a solution, and then trying to persuade others to logic of your solution, they worked with users throughout.”— Jeff Doyle, a Partner at D’Artagnan Consulting
I want to give thanks to our sponsors and research participants for making this project possible. First time being introduced participatory design, I had opportunity to design with stakeholders throughout the project and share design thinking with non-designers.
While I am proud of how much my team has accomplished in 10 weeks, I wish we got chance to work with the developers and iterate our prototype based on technical feasibility. I would also like to look into Material Design or iOS guideline in order to better understand mobile design guidelines and improve visual design.