When you bring together a fresh perspective and new technologies, solutions to old problems emerge. That’s the idea behind the Next Generation Mobility Challenge, which was co-created by Toyota to inspire young people to develop mobility solutions for social equity and inclusion problems. Improved and streamlined transportation, according to Toyota, can solve social impact problems in communities and around the world.
A team of Georgia Tech students developed one such solution — and took home the winning spot in the Challenge — for an app-based taxi service specifically geared towards people in wheelchairs. Called ParaPickup, the app is reminiscent of the popular Uber or Lyft ridesharing services, but would have all the necessary equipment needed to efficiently pick up those in wheelchairs.
“ParaPickup is filling the necessary gap that the Para Transit and ride-sharing services fail to fill,” said Sally Xia, one of the students on the team. Sally is a master’s student studying digital design.
“We wanted to make sure that wheelchair users has a dependent, reliable way for their spontaneous travel. Currently, they have to either afford a $40,000 vehicle or depend on Paratransit, which requires scheduling 24 hours in advance and only operates in two counties in Georgia. ParaPickup would make spontaneous travel possible without having to ask family and friends,” says Xia.
ParaPickup was chosen as the winner not only by a panel of judges, but also in the public voting round.
The team of four students (industrial design graduate students Riley Keen and Pranav Nair, and mechanical engineering student Kris Weng, in addition to Xia) will now get to spend the summer interning with Toyota’s social innovation team to further develop ParaPickup — potentially even bringing the idea to life.
“Toyota co-created the Next Generation Mobility Challenge with Net Impact because, big picture, we care about creating better ways to enable more people to go more places—and we have a focus on helping communities with limited mobility do more,” said Julie Ann Burandt, manager of global strategy and communications for the Toyota Mobility Foundation.
“The concept of Para Pickup would solve a problem that people who use wheelchairs face on a daily basis: the lack of flexible mobility options. Toyota was impressed with the Georgia Tech team’s empathy and dedication to identifying this nuanced issue and their creativity in developing a solution,” Burandt said.
Even if this particular solution isn’t implemented, the national competition shows the potential a motivated, new eye can bring to solve challenges faced by large populations. Xia intends to continue pursuing design as an avenue to bring about measurable change.
“I want to work as a User Experience Researcher that helps to bring awesome ideas and projects to life,” she said.
Photos via Toyota and Georgia Tech