How SEAT:CODE Drives Sustainable Mobility with Crowdtesting
The Global Footprint Network, in its calculations for Earth Overshoot Day 2022, found that humanity had already consumed all the resources that the planet is able to generate in a year by July. For the Spanish mobility technology company SEAT.CODE, statistics such as these hammer home the need for more sustainable mobility solutions.
Founded in 2017, SEAT:CODE belongs to the SEAT Group, and by extension the Volkswagen Group. Its mission is to develop digital solutions for companies, cities and other organisations that want to contribute to a cleaner world by deploying innovative mobility solutions. Central to this effort is its flagship product, Giravolta, comprising a connected vehicle fleet, an end customer-facing app and a B2B fleet management dashboard.
SEAT:CODE believes that electric vehicles are just one part of sustainable mobility. Vehicle sharing is transforming how citizens move around cities, employees get to work, dealerships leverage idle inventories, and more. Through Giravolta, SEAT:CODE enables:
cities to bolster public transport networks
corporate buildings to offer vehicle sharing as part of office rental packages
companies to provide employees access to onsite connected fleets
tourists and locals to travel more sustainably.
In a recent Applause webinar, we heard from SEAT:CODE’s mobility business team about their experiences launching Giravolta across different markets and use cases. Here’s what Daniel Puerta, Technical Project Manager, and Jordi García, Delivery Manager, Mobility at SEAT:CODE had to say.
A sustainable transportation model for the future
The United Nations recently recognised SEAT:CODE’s astyMOVE electrification project on the Greek island of Astypalea as an example for other countries to follow. Through the astyMOVE app, users can travel around the whole island using whatever mode of transport they like, opting to use a driver or to drive themselves, from a fleet of electric vehicles. Users need only select the number of passengers travelling plus the start and end points for the journey and the app’s algorithm calculates the most efficient route based on journey duration and energy consumption.
“What made this project particularly innovative from our perspective was that it was the first time we combined all our services into one app. Users can choose any transport mode they like, be it a SEAT MÓ electric scooter, a Ducati e-bike, or an on-demand e-shuttle, when usually they would require three separate apps,” explained Puerta.
For García, the project on Astypalea also demonstrates how vehicle sharing can help local authorities to bolster public transport networks: “1,300 people live on the island the whole year through. In the summer, that number grows to 35,000. Imagine the kind of public transport network you would need to cover that increase in demand. It would be impossible. With astyMOVE, tourists and citizens alike have more options to choose from.”
“Giravlota is super customisable, so our clients can choose to only enable certain vehicles or routes during the high season,” added Puerta.
Rapid market expansion requires robust testing
Over the period from October 2021 to June 2022, SEAT:CODE expanded rapidly, launching six new products across Europe in just under one year. Some involved bicycles, others cars or mopeds, all from different manufacturers and sometimes with different use cases, like ride sharing.
“We are constantly expanding, with little time to switch between projects. At the same time, we are constantly adding value to the platform. This means we need a lot of testing, a lot of effort,” said Puerta.
Puerta and García knew that the mobility business unit needed to expand QA to meet the growing demands of Giravolta. Now releasing a new version of the app every 15 days, it needs to ensure robust testing for each release to add value for customers.
“I honestly think that ensuring high-quality experiences is crucial for growing our business,” said García.
Puerta agreed. “It’s no good having a super technical application, or one that fulfils users’ needs from a product standpoint, if the app is not intuitive for users, doesn’t work very well or has errors. Users will abandon it and this will impact the business.”
He added: “It’s not just about fulfilling the customers’ requirements, but granting them the best user experience that we can.”
Onsite testing is non-negotiable for mobility applications
Occasionally, SEAT:CODE came up against barriers onsite that they had not predicted that had the potential to halt rollouts. When launching a bike sharing product in Vantaa, Finland, the team discovered that the city had its own LoRa wireless network to connect IoT devices. They had not encountered this technology before.
“This was proof that we needed onsite testing. Each project brings considerations that are difficult to recreate in our offices in Barcelona, be it something as complex as a local LoRa network or as simple as a rainy climate. On top of that, we simply can’t account for all the potential situations a real user faces when using our apps in a city,” Puerta explained.
García added: “It’s worth emphasising that we are not simply launching the same product in different cities. We didn’t just start up a car sharing service in Martorell and then copy the same thing for Wolfsburg, and so on. There are so many things to consider when expanding to new markets and sometimes complications like the LoRa network in Vantaan throw a spanner in the works.”
Cultural differences also complicated market expansion. In Finland, SEAT:CODE ended up changing its invoicing flow after Applause testers flagged that they could not understand how to complete a payment. Without local testers, SEAT:CODE would not have known that invoicing works very differently in Finland.
“Honestly, realising that we simply need to test onsite has been our biggest learning since working with Applause. However fantastic our lab testing may be, it can never replace the real thing,” said Puerta.
Testing the end-to-end user experience onsite with Applause
Applause testers support SEAT:CODE to test the end-to-end user experience and validate the happy path for its different brands. Testers start by registering an account, checking that they receive the correct SMS codes and can upload mandatory documents like their drivers licence. They also test the booking flow, which starts when they schedule or start a trip through the app or scan a QR code, and finishes when they end the trip.
Depending on whether the product is a floating or fixed-location service, testers ensure they can only end trips inside of the designated zone or station. They also check that they can submit a photo to prove that they have parked properly and test whether they can park and locate vehicles successfully in multi-story car parks.
Thanks to the Applause testers, SEAT:CODE managed to get to the bottom of a major bug. Multiple testers reported that the number of available bikes advertised on the app did not match reality; sometimes users would find fewer bikes than advertised, sometimes more. SEAT:CODE realised that there was a problem with the algorithm and was able to fix it quickly.
“This is something we could have technically simulated in the lab, but testing onsite was so much better,” said Puerta.
García elaborated: “Well, you see, even if the code tells you that two bikes are available, it’s so much easier and faster if you can send someone to the station to check it with their own eyes. We need Applause to be our eyes and ears on the ground to verify the vehicle responses in real time.”
SEAT:CODE also needed to ensure broad device coverage. With Applause, it currently tests about 166 unique Android devices and 182 unique Apple devices. “Without Applause, we couldn’t test this level of coverage for every location before every release,” said Puerta.
Tracking the business impact of crowdtesting
Applause breaks down the bugs it discovers by key flows: namely registration, login and booking. As bugs in these flows can have a concrete impact on the business, it is crucial that SEAT:CODE discover them before they make it to production.
Identifying the cause of and eradicating crashes is a key concern, as these are extremely high-impact bugs. SEAT:CODE’s business mobility unit has its own internal crash dashboard, known by the team as Crashlytics, which records the number of times an application does not respond or crashes outright. When a crash occurs, users receive a request to tell SEAT:CODE’s developers about the crash.
Puerta is impressed by Giravolta’s percentage of crash-free users, which it can keep low thanks to Applause. “If you look at the Crashlytics for our Bleeper app over the past 30 days, crashes were at 0.06% — that amounts to 3 errors over the last 3 years. Two of these were caused by Google algorithm changes, so that’s actually one crash in 60,000 users, which I think is a good number. But I still want to improve it.”
García quipped: “So if you are the one person experiencing this error, count yourself lucky, haha! The percentage is really very, very low. But please, flag it to us because we want to take care of it.”
“Definitely, " said Puerta. ”You know, the work we are putting into the app earns us the reviews we are seeing in the app stores. The SEAT MÓ app for carsharing in Barcelona currently has a 4.4 stars out of 5 rating in the Apple Store. I think this is a good indication that we are getting things right, but we still need to improve and reach the 5-star score.”
With five-star ratings in its sights, SEAT:CODE continues to work with Applause on more product rollouts across Europe, ensuring the best possible digital experiences for its customers’ end users.