The Project Theory

Through the global progression of urbanisation and populational growth more and more people live in cities. Next, to this trend, the number of autonomous cars will rise in the future. There will be a shift from a heteronomous vehicle navigation use case towards a navigation concept addressing pedestrian needs. Rather than taking place inside the car, this process will transform to urban navigation by foot. Common navigation applications do barely make the grade to the special pedestrian user needs. With our concept, we want to address and improve everyday life situations in urban spaces and show a possible solution how to integrate this inside Google Maps.

Before we start - a huge callout to all the amazing projects which take part in the endeavour of making navigation a more human-centered process. We hope that our case study can contribute to this development with a possible approach to combine and implement those innovative ideas with the current stable built of Google Maps. (03.15.2017)

An additional special thanks to the companies providing public data and helpful tools to make this project possible.

The way we approach things

To create convincing solutions we follow a specific iterative design-thinking process. This process helps to build up a decent workflow for designing user experience based projects. Design thinking itself is an ideology. It asserts that a user-centred approach to problem-solving can lead to innovation. This innovation can lead to a competitive advantage. To achieve this innovation a design-thinking framework consisting of five distinct phases is needed.

The basic pattern of pedestrian navigation

If you want to understand and improve the way pedestrians move and navigate in urban spaces you have to deconstruct the navigation process into different steps. By deconstructing the process into separate parts we understood that there are actually three main phases.

Phase one is all about the personal history of a user and his individual movement behaviour. Where has the user already been? Are there any unknown locations or places in his or her urban environment?

Phase two covers the actual navigation process itself. It consists of four steps in total. Start of navigation process, route definition, navigation to destination and arrival at destination. In this phase, the user asks himself where he wants to go and how he wants to get there.

Phase three tries to motivate the user in exploring his environment further and provides possible suggestions according to his interest. In the following, we want to provide possible solutions to the special user needs and a deeper insight into those phases.

Possible solutions

Each of the six steps provides a variation of user pains which were examined through interviews and testing. Thereby we gained insights which we used to generate a number of possible solutions for each step. The main focus hereby were steps two and three: Start of the navigation process and the route definition. Those concepts target the idea of alternative route calculation models which led to a change in the UI and flow optimization.


Route Properties

Easy Route: Improve accessibility, Consider route properties, Improve orientation
Restful Route: Avoid crowded places, Avoid high sound levels, Guide through greenspaces
+ Places Route: Points of interest, Places worth seeing, Vibrant places.


As the continuing development process of Google Maps shows, the application tries to adapt to those needs and is in a constant state of change. During our project period, we discovered that new features found their way into Google Maps on a regular basis to improve its overall user experience. As a result, Google Maps is already shifting to a more human-centred application and becomes more and more a map of places rather than a map for streets.