A UOIT professor has designed a new mobile application to make organizing carpooling easier, though students are slow to fully embrace the technology.
The carpooling app, known as Blancride, launched its first pilot program in November and has enrolled 725 staff and students, available for download to the Durham College and UOIT community.
According to the founder of Blancride, Dr. Hamid Akbari, an Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, the app works on iPhones and Androids and lets users operate it at anytime. As rides are requested, the application determines suitable matches and informs the matched users.
However, despite the application’s current 725 enrolees, Dr. Akbari says very few carpooling rides have happened so far he says it’s due to the lack of awareness and trust about the application within the campus community.
“Most students are still concerned about inputting their credit card,” Dr. Akbari says in an email. “Even though we are using “Stripe” which is even more secure than PayPal, and we don’t even get access to their credit cards.”
Dr. Akbari says when new innovative technology is created, there are very few early adopters willing to go out and use, as well as promote, the technology, preferring to be followers instead.
“Once those innovators start to use it and talk about the benefits, then through word of mouth others will follow,” Dr. Akbari says.
Dr. Akbari says he founded Blancride to deal with the large amounts of traffic and the pollution it creates. According to Dr. Akbari in Canada there are ten billion empty seats on the road every year, which is not cost effective to drivers.
“So, we wanted to solve this problem,” Dr. Akbari says. “Carpooling is the natural way to reduce the number of cars on the road or compliment public transit.”
He also says it saves money and fuel due to motorists sharing costs and vehicles. The challenge with carpooling, he says, is that it is difficult due to coordinating drop-off points, finding someone who is going to the same place as you, organizing meeting places and schedules, and trusting people to split the costs of travel.
“With Blancride now, we’ve been able to automate all these things with just a few taps,” he says.
According to Dr. Akbari, Blancride does this by both intended passengers and drivers inputting either where they want to go or where they will be going, allowing both parties to organize the carpooling.
When the transaction is finished he says the app automatically balances the costs of each trip between each passenger and driver, streamlining the financial transaction and reducing the expense of each person’s ride.
Blancride currently does not charge any fees for this service, but Dr. Akbari says, “down the road, when we expand beyond our community, we will charge a small fee for performing the service.”
Dr. Akbari believes it is only a matter of time before people begin to do their research into the app or start to trust it and there are students who are using the app who believe in its potential.
“The thing I like most about it is it gives students an opportunity to save time and money, especially when waiting for the bus outside in the cold,“ says Dalton Stewart, a UOIT student in the Bachelor of Commerce program who has been using the application for two months as a driver.
Stewart says he knows from experience how long and difficult waiting for the bus can be, but what he also likes is that app allows people to network and collaborate with students from different programs or from Durham College who they may not have had a chance to meet otherwise.
“For me personally it’s not so much about saving cost on gas but for the idea of socializing,” he says. “That’s the key aspect for myself.”