Urban air mobility infrastructure design: Using virtual reality to capture user experience within the world's first urban airport

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Abstract

Human factors research can play an important role in the successful design of infrastructure to support future mobility. Through engaging users and stakeholders early in the design process we can gain insights before the physical environments are built. This paper presents data from a truly novel application of Virtual Reality (VR), where user experience and wayfinding were evaluated within an emerging future transport infrastructure to support urban air mobility (UAM) – the urban airport (aka vertiports). Urban airports are located in city centres where drones or ‘flying cars’ would land and take off from. Previous quantitative studies have investigated passenger experience in traditional airports using field observation and surveys, but this paper is the first to present qualitative research on user experience in this emerging mobility infrastructure using an immersive VR environment. Twenty participants completed a series of six scenarios aimed at understanding customer ‘exciters’ and ‘pain points’ within an urban airport. Results and recommendations from this empirical research will help inform the design of all future mobility infrastructure solutions, through improving user experience before the infrastructure is physically deployed. Finally, this paper highlights the benefits of engaging users at an early stage of the design process to ensure that future transport infrastructure will be accessible, easy to navigate and a pleasure to use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103843
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Volume105
Early online date7 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Funder

The purpose of the current research as presented in this paper is to better understand the user experience specifically related to a better understanding of the customer journey and wayfinding within this novel infrastructure of an urban airport to support future transport via urban air mobility. To achieve this, an inductive content analysis was conducted on answers given to the open-ended questions asked at the end of the VR trials. The signs to support wayfinding were designed by Coventry University specifically for this project and followed best practice for signage contrast ratios, font used, readability and size at fixed distances, and height above at key locations (see Federal Aviation Administration, 2013). This user study was conducted in VR before any physical build of an urban airport has been completed, meaning that user feedback from this VR trial can be used to improve future iterations (see Fig. 1).This work was completed as part of the AirOne project and funded by Innovate UK under the Future Flight Challenge (grant number: 75685), an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) programme for the UK. Collaborative partners on the AirOne project are: Urban-Air Port Ltd (lead partner), Malloy Aeronautics, Supernal, Coventry City Council and Coventry University. The authors would like to thank Ryan Lewis and Dean Mangurenje from the National Transport Design Centre, Coventry University, and Ryan Atkins and Chul-Jun Sung from Urban-Air Port for their support generating the VR environment. Funding Information: This work was completed as part of the AirOne project and funded by Innovate UK under the Future Flight Challenge (grant number: 75685 ), an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) programme for the UK . Collaborative partners on the AirOne project are: Urban-Air Port Ltd (lead partner), Malloy Aeronautics, Supernal, Coventry City Council and Coventry University. The authors would like to thank Ryan Lewis and Dean Mangurenje from the National Transport Design Centre, Coventry University , and Ryan Atkins and Chul-Jun Sung from Urban-Air Port for their support generating the VR environment

Keywords

  • Urban air mobility
  • User experience
  • Virtual reality
  • User-centred design
  • Human factors

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