mobility · system design

How could future mobility help bridge communities?



Pittsburgh is growing at a fast pace with the increase number in students and young working professionals coming into the city. This influx of individuals, however, is creating a social division between the old and the new, causing issues such as gentrification in many of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. Our team worked with Bridgestone to ideate how this problem can be solved through future technology in mobility.

Our team designed a vehicle with adjustable and expandable walls that can form assemblies to create event spaces in city neighborhoods and facilitate social interactions between communities.



My teammates and I worked together on generative research and ideation. Individually, I was responsible for the technical design, 3D prototyping, and mock-ups.

Susie Lee, Wenjie Li

Design Overview

Similar to food trucks and pop-up farmer’s markets, our system, Silta, moves temporary community spaces around different neighborhoods.

Easy implementation

Each Silta unit is operated by autonomous driving. They have the size of a bus, which fits into current infrastructure perfectly.

Expandable surfaces

Each unit can be fully opened to create dynamic spaces for different events

Miura folding

Significantly increases area of space the vehicles create while maintaining the compact nature of the units

Walls with controllable rigidity

Walls are soft and flexible to be folded in the miura form, but rigid when in the expanded form to support people and other items (inspired by jamSheets)

Omni wheels

The small sub-wheels enable alternative traveling directions and ensure accurate and efficient assembly of the units

Design Process


Background research

We conducted secondary research on three areas:

  • The domain of mobility
  • To study trends in future mobility through literature reviews
  • The company of Bridgestone
  • To understand Bridgestone’s competence and focus areas
  • The city of Pittsburgh
  • To study Pittsburgh's demographic data related to mobility

This round of research gave us an overview of what future mobility technology we could use as tools to solve problems.

Mobility as service

Shared economy

Automated driving


Material innovation

AI & big data

Data from research (see appendix) also confirmed our assumption that Pittsburgh is a socially divided city.

This led us to focus on exploring how people and communities can be connected.

Interactive booklet study

We initially targeted our focus on bridging “the old” and “the new” of Pittsburgh.

So we interviewed both newcomers and local residents with two interactive booklets (see appendix) respectively.

We want to understand their lifestyle regarding mobility and views of Pittsburgh.

Poster study

We also conducted an open-space user study using an interactive poster with two questions:

  • Where do you live? Work? Frequently hang out? Want to explore?
  • What stops you from exploring Pittsburgh?

We want to see how people connect with other neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.

Key findings

  • People don't spend much time exploring other Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
  • People prefer to explore new neighborhoods with social company (friends, family, etc.).
  • People's main motivations to going out are food and entertainment.
  • People are impeded by time & schedule, transportation constraints, and budget.

Problem Statement

People in Pittsburgh live within small physical and social radii, which is isolating them from other communities and ripping apart the social fabric of society.



To solve the problem we identified, we brainstormed multiple ideas using methodologies such as Things from the Future exercise.

Changing perspective

We reviewed our ideas with Bridgestone and our instructor.

With their feedback, we altered our perspective and changed our goal from “motivating people to go to places” to “bringing experiences to people”.

We ideated the final solution to be a vehicle that would operate in a way similar to food trucks and bring experiences from one neighborhood to another.

Design and Prototyping


We drew sketches of our visions of vehicles individually, then selected highlights of our ideas to come up with a combined design.


We presented to Bridgestone our design and storyboards about how these vehicles can be useful in different scenarios.

They had a positive reaction to the design, and provided further opportunity areas such as smart materials.


Foam core prototyping

Video prototyping


Video demo

Value analysis

We conducted a value analysis with the help of a stakeholder map (see appendix), and came to the conclusion that Silta is promising because it creates values for various stakeholders.

Value for individuals:

Value for businesses:

Value for society:

  • Frees people from time and transportation constraints
  • Provides more exposure to cultural diversity
  • Brings new experience to familiar space
  • Helps commercial branding & promotion by increasing public exposure
  • Facilitates market investigation and evaluation
  • Expands business radii and brings more revenue
  • Reconstructs local network by sparking conversations and deepening understandings
  • Improve social equity by sharing infrastructure and public services
  • Other cities can use Pittsburgh as a model


You can read more about this project in the process book.

Pittsburgh demographic data

Interactive booklet questions

For newcomers:

  • Draw a map of Pittsburgh & one of your neighborhood.
  • What does your average weekend look like?
  • How do you normally travel in Pittsburgh?
  • Draw your journey as newcomer to Pittsburgh.
  • ...

For local residents:

  • Draw a map of Pittsburgh & one of your neighborhood.
  • How has your neighborhood changed over time?
  • At what point did you no longer consider yourself a newcomer?
  • ...

Stakeholder map




© 2019 mike yilin dong