Java Self Drive

Improving customer retention and growth by automating the car rental experience.


Reducing operational inefficiencies, improving customer value and maximising growth.


UX strategy
UX research
UI design


An end to end digital experience that improves customer retention and accommodates growth.


Java Self Drive


Pen & Paper


May – December 2021

The car rental ecosystem

The global car rental market is projected to grow from $82.54 billion in 2022 to $137.25 billion by 2029, representing a compounded annual growth rate of 7.5%! The industry has gained considerable attention during the post-Covid-19 period, in part because of an increased focus on the rebounding of greenhouse emissions, which had plunged by 4.6% in 2020 largely due to restricted mobility. Furthermore, a steep increase in car prices due to the silicon chip shortage is unlikely to level-off in the near-term, driving consumers who had been looking to purchase vehicles to hold-out and, instead, prefer on-demand transportation such as ride hailing and car rental services for outings and trips.

The car rental industry in Kenya was growing at a rate of 8% per annum pre-Covid. During the pandemic, a ban on international travel and partial cessation of local movement for 7-8 months led to an overall reduction in the number of car renters as compared to 2019. Presently, aside from an over 40% increase on the prices of used cars, rental companies have to deal with high import duty, steep fees for maintenance and a strict regulatory environment that does not offer failsafes such as affordable specialised vehicle insurance products.

Despite these challenges, the market for car rentals in Kenya is set to expand. According to United Nations population estimates, the world’s youngest countries by median age are in Africa, with Kenya having millennials and gen-zs making up 55.47% of its population. A large difference in attitude between millennials and older generations when it comes to owning a car was observed in Deloitte’s Global Automotive Study. For instance, millennials prioritised price, flexibility, and convenience, and showed more willingness to embrace car-sharing and ride-hailing services. In the same way that millennials don’t need to own physical copies of art – music, print or films – they don’t necessarily need to buy a car either. As millennials and succeeding generations become the dominant car driving age group, the shift in priority from ownership to renting or sharing is set to catalyse the projected growth rate of the global car rental market. Car ownership may, as such, be a paradigm to be left behind.


Java Self Drive: A Case Study argues in favour of a modal shift in nudging people towards more sustainable mobility options. The study was made on behalf of Java Self Drive, a car rental company based in Mombasa, Kenya, which acts as a bridge between current or aspiring car owners, and travellers looking to find cars for a time. The following is what bridge-building at Java Self Drive entails.

Partner card extracted from the home screen of the digital experience.

Creating an avenue for current car owners to earn an income by renting out their vehicles through the company’s direct access to customers in Mombasa and greater environs.

Owner card extracted from the home screen of the digital experience.

Creating an opportunity for aspiring car owners to acquire their own vehicles for as low as 50% of the car’s value, with the difference being invested by Java Self Drive. Once the car is imported, Java Self Drive rents it out in a partnership model in which the aspiring car owner earns 50% of the proceeds until the company recoups its investment. At that point, the owner may opt for a higher percentage of the proceeds or may take it out of the rental space for personal use.

The Objectives

Currently in its fourth year of operations, Java Self Drive is looking to enhance the experiences of its partners and customers. In doing so, the company hopes to attract larger investment from car owners and improve its renters’ retention rates. Java Self Drive aims to achieve these objectives by using new technologies to improve three key aspects:


The speed and transparency of the booking process.


The response rate for bookings.


The growth rate of its fleet, partners and customers.

The Challenge

Java Self Drive’s current business activities are heavily brick and mortar-based involving:


Collecting necessary personally identifiable information (PII) information required for booking, such as renter’s photos, IDs and drivers’ licences, on premise at their office in Mombasa, Kenya.


A lot of time and manpower was being spent collecting and updating customer and rental information.


Keeping scanned records via a common company WhatsApp group.


Sharing a customer’s PII company wide was a gross violation of Kenya’s Data Protection Act. Furthermore, when changes were made to a booking, traceability was difficult given the asynchronous nature of online messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.


Charging clients arbitrarily for wear and tear, accidental damage, excess time or excess fuel costs at the end of their rental period.


During peak seasons, for example, Easter or Christmas, the influx of bookings would overwhelm the team, sometimes leading to slow and frustrating onboarding experiences for customers or customers exceeding their allotted time with a rental. Oftentimes, customers would default paying for extra time with a rental leading to losses for the business.

Java Self Drive was, therefore, at a point where it saw the significance of improving its customer experience ahead of beginning a campaign to expand their operations to other towns along the Kenyan coast.

The Outcome

An end to end digital experience that improves customer retention and accommodates business growth.


Enables a customer to explore the company’s vehicles that are up for rent, select, book, and pay for a vehicle of their choice from anywhere in the world.


Maximises business earnings through a user-friendly approach to communicating and billing add-on services and extra costs, extending rental time, and altering rent details.


Prevents monetary losses from vehicle damage by creating a trail between pre- and post- rental physical condition.

Know Your Customer

Allows for fast collection, easy management and privacy of customer onboarding data.

The Process










The team began listening by conducting interviews through in-depth telephone calls, virtual meetings and digging into desk research in order to get to know:

  • the leadership’s vision.
  • how the business is currently run.
  • customer’s current experience with renting.
  • the broader ecosystem of rental offerings.

During the interviews, room was created for customers, internal and external stakeholders to detail the current processes and pin-point where most of their frustrations presented themselves.

From these interviews with participants, the team gained qualitative insights that aided in understanding user expectations, behaviours, needs, and motivations. These insights would be key in ensuring all design decisions were of benefit to both the internal team as well as the customers seeking out rentals.


The next step involved a thinking phase where the team reflected on what members heard from the business and its customers and started to tangibly produce ideas. Asana, a product management tool, was used to prioritise insights to form a strategy for design.

Asana enabled the team to:

  • categorise product requirements.
  • classify all insights gathered.
  • present the synthesised research to stakeholders.
Key Insights


Know Your Customer

The business was losing potential customers due to time lost in fulfilling the requirement to present oneself physically on-premise for Know Your Customer (KYC) documents to be collected and verified.

design decision

The digital experience had to handle collection and verification of KYC documents fully remotely while consuming the least amount of time possible.


Eliminate Risk

The main market segments for Java Self Drive’s car rental business are millennials, tourists and expatriates; customers who value reputation and service quality.

design decision

Given that Java Self Drive is a relatively young company, the customer experience needed to eliminate any perception of risk.


Extend Time or Place

Majority of the clientele initially hire a car for a specific period to fulfill a certain objective but often seek to extend their rental time or change their dropoff point.

design decision

The digital experience, therefore, needed to accommodate booking extensions once a customer has the rental in hand.


Introduce Checks

The business has been making losses from a lack of reimbursements by clients for on-rent damages or company fuel existing in the car’s tanks.

design decision

In order to prevent such occurrences, the digital experience had to allow for verification of a rental’s physical condition. Moreover, clients would need to pay their dues upfront, e.g., paying for fuel already existing in a car’s fuel tank while booking.



Know Your Customer

The digital experience had to handle collection and verification of KYC documents fully remotely while consuming the least amount of time possible.

KYC was made optional on sign up. It was only compulsory to identify oneself when committing to book a rental during checkout. To guard against confusion, the team made the experience progressively disclose which documents were necessary.

KYC Customer Journey

A customer journey that paints a picture of the process a person looking to hire a car from Java Self Drive is taken through to upload necessary documentation for elligibility.

KYC Prototype

Press to Play


Eliminate Risk

In order to appeal to Java Self Drive’s primary clientele – millennials, tourists and expatriates – the customer experience needed to eliminate any perception of risk.

01 – rate & review

The digital experience allows customers to rate and review the vehicle and experience at the end of their rental period.

02 – billing transparency

The digital experience provides transparency in billing rental time broken down to minute details.

On-Rent Customer Journey


A customer is able to provide a numerical rating and a textual review at the end of their time with a rental.

Rate & Review Prototype



Rental cost is broken down to minute details to allow for customers to know what exactly they are paying for.

Calculate Cost Prototype



Extend Time or Place

Majority of the clientele often seek to extend their rental time. The digital experience therefore needed to accommodate booking extensions.

Built into the experience is a provision for one to extend time with a rental, change drop-off location or change the furthest place they intend to travel with the rental. A customer can then pay the associated cost to effect the change.

extend time

The digital experience provides for changing drop-off date and/or time. A customer can then pay the associated cost to effect the change.

*On-rent services are designed to be usable even while driving.

Booking Extension Prototype



Introduce Checks

In order to prevent further losses, the digital experience had to allow for verification of a rental’s physical condition. Moreover, clients would need to pay their dues upfront, e.g., paying for fuel already existing in a car’s fuel tank while booking or on-rent.

01 – handover

The digital experience allows for a company employee and a customer to confirm all that is present as well as indicate any anomalies on a vehicle during pickup and drop-off.

02 – fueling

Customers are also required to pay upfront for any fuel that they request from the company on booking or as residual in the tank from a previous rental period.


The digital experience allows for a company employee and a customer to synchronously walk through a checklist to confirm all that is present as well as indicate any anomalies on a vehicle during pickup as they check-in for their booking.

Check-in Handover Prototype



Given that a vehicle must run on some fuel, customers are required to predefine an amount of fuel that they’d like to arrive with the rental, be willing to pay upfront for any fuel that they request from the company on booking or as residual in the tank from a previous rental period.


Going back to the people and walking with them through the initial prototype of the digital experience was crucial to understanding what may need to change or be improved.

01 – Scope

The team tested the first iteration of the Java Self Drive prototype as of September 2021; the focus areas were the rental booking and payment processes.

Informed by insights gathered from the first round of testing, we redesigned the booking and payment process and presented a second iteration prototype for testing in December 2021.

02 – purpose

The team’s general question:

“Can users easily find and quickly book their preferred rental?” 

Some of the team’s specific concerns:

  • the ease of navigating the rentals on offer.
  • speed of successfully completing a booking. 
  • transparency in billing for services offered.
  • privacy concerns from customers on the use of their PII.
03 – schedule & location

The team conducted moderated usability tests remotely via Google Meet. Each 90 minute session had participants run through tasks communicated subliminally through scenarios. Participants were required to:

  • share screens with the moderator so that the test can be conducted in real time.
  • think aloud as they completed the tasks.
04 – participants

The team conducted the two rounds of testing with 7 participants.

The participants represented a portion of Java Self Drive’s larger customer base, possessing the following characteristics:

  • millenials at the start of their professional* careers who aspire to or have recently begun owning a car.
  • older long-time car owners who are avid local or international travelers.

Professional -> design, engineering, medicine, service industries.

05 – usability test scenario
06 – metrics

The team utilized both subjective and quantitative metrics for both rounds of testing.

Subjective metrics

  • Self-reported participant ratings for satisfaction, ease of use, and ease of finding information.
  • Likes – what they liked most about the experience.
  • Dislikes – what they liked least about the experience.
  • Recommendations – suggestions for improving the site.

Quantitative metrics

  • Time on task – the amount of time participants spent completing a task.
Key Insights
Assure Privacy

Customers are concerned about the privacy of the personally identifiable information (PII) shared with Java Self Drive in exchange for a rental. Customers are aware that data is the new gold and, given that highly sensitive data and photographic evidence was required to successfully book a rental, they expressed a need for assurance that Java Self Drive is a secure digital system that guarantees reduced risk of leaks or breaches.

design decision

On the redesign, the team worked with the client to come up with a concise and readable privacy policy that communicates how the data provided is used and the internal access controls put in place to keep it protected. The policy pops-up on startup encouraging a customer to have a read before signing.

Privacy Policy Prototype


Guide Input

Collection and verification of KYC documents remotely was still time consuming for customers.

design decision

On the redesign, the team added artificial intelligence guidance to input for each progressively disclosed section for a faster, more accurate document upload process.

KYC Redesign Prototype


Advance Value

Given customers’ experience with ride hailing, train and flight booking, the majority already possessed an existing mental model for digital service experiences, which is primarily exploratory in nature.

The first iteration was taken to be restrictive by testers. It presented a lengthy journey where one had to, for instance, sign up or log in first to be able to see what rental options Java Self Drive had on offer and then proceed to check a rentals availability.

Booking Customer Journey

Explore & Booking Prototype


design decision

A need existed for the digital experience to strike its net wide by presenting the business’ car rentals, their availability and any add-on services for anyone, anywhere.

On the redesign, the team introduced a re-imagined journey that brought Java Self Drive’s value upfront, i.e, the car rentals available, without the sign up/login barrier of entry. One could also explore knowing that the rentals presented were available for their current travel plans; flexible or defined.

Booking Customer Journey Redesign

Explore & Booking Redesign Prototype


Project Successes

01 – reduced development time
Reduced project timeline influenced by design.

Initially, Java Self Drive was projected to take 36 months to go live. By providing in-depth user flows and high fidelity mock-ups, testing them with actual customers and determining feasibility with the development team, the 36 month project timeline was reduced by 33% to 24 months. The application is set to launch on Play Store in the third quarter of 2023.

02 – Business growth
Reduced booking processing times on-premise.

In order to address an organic increase in demand for their rentals as development progressed on the customer mobile app, the business saw a need to quickly embrace digitization of its existing KYC process on-premise. Utilizing the design team’s user flows, a minimum viable digitized KYC experience is being used by internal staff on-premise. It has reduced processing a single booking request by 75%; from 20 minutes down to 5 minutes.

Percentage increase in revenue due to partial digitization of business processes.

The company has also added 12 cars to its fleet to serve customers at a new branch located in Diani – a coastal town 35 km south of Mombasa frequented by tourists on short stays. Meeting that partial increase in demand has lead to a 54% increase in revenue.


For Java Self Drive, I was presented with an opportunity to re-imagine the private car — an object of freedom, opportunity, and status. Contributing to a reduction in global emissions through helping a business premised on sustainability participate in the future of mobility was a dream come to fruition.

Given that I am Nairobi-based and the project kicked off amidst Covid-19 restrictions, I had a valuable experience gathering data and engaging with clients fully remotely with collaborative tools such as Meet, Asana, Figma, and Zeplin.

Furthermore, although I was cognizant of cars and their effect on global emissions, researching ways my fellow citizens are mitigating these effects has given me hope that every small stride in the right direction, in the end, may save humanity.

This case study is a working prototype

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