Last summer, Max Kolysh, Vineet Gopal and Joshua Ma were roommates. Today they are the winners of the second OnStar Student Developer Challenge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The competition challenged MIT students to use the OnStar application programming interface (API) to create a voice-based app.
The winning team was awarded a $10,000 OnStar Student Developer Dream Package for developing Carma, a website-based ride-sharing app that lets drivers of OnStar-equipped vehicles accept requests from students who need rides.
How did the idea for Carma come up?
“We figured it was a definite pain point for some people without cars,” says Max Kolysh. “While there is public transportation readily available around here, it’s often much more convenient to get a ride, such as during a move-in.”
Here’s how Carma works:
People needing a ride enter their location and destination on the website. Drivers activate the app with their OnStar system using a voice command, and give it their destination address. Carma compares the ride requests to a driver’s route, then the app figures out whom the driver can pick up without straying too far from the route. The ride request is stored in the database until a driver decides to pick someone up. At that point, Carma sends a text message to the passenger with the pick-up time and vehicle model.
Passengers have various options when they request a ride, such as entering a flexible departure time and saving their departure and destination addresses. Users can also connect to Facebook to confirm the person they’re riding with, as a safety measure. Plus a small message box option lets the user tell the driver why he or she needs a ride, creating a more personal experience for both parties.
Max says Carma was envisioned to be a “community-oriented platform that operates on good deeds” and not as a fee-based service.
“We generalized the idea to not only college campuses, but also entire communities,” he says. “By leveraging both the data and the interface provided by the OnStar platform, our small application takes a very large step toward solving a real social and environmental problem.”
The award-winning trio has a bright future. Max expects to pursue a masters of engineering at MIT, while Vineet and Josh, who are both graduating after only three years at MIT, look forward to careers with a software company.
Later this year OnStar will launch a platform for third-party developers to access its API, encouraging innovation and new features for the OnStar service lineup.
What kinds of apps would you like OnStar to support?