Students create sober driver locator application
Students gather in the Student Union Ballroom during last semester’s Involvement Fair in Spring 2010. About 190 clubs and 14 programs attended last year, drawing nearly 7,000 people to the biannual event. This year, the Student Activities Office is expecting even greater numbers of organizations and visitors. FILE PHOTO/The Daily Campus
A new sober driver app created by two UConn students has been named one of the 2012 Tech Companies to Watch by the Connecticut Technology Council. The app, Sobrio, bridges the gap between partygoers and sober drivers who want to provide a service and make a couple of dollars.
Sobrio was created by 7th-semester biomedical engineering major Tom Bachant and 8th-semester consumer behavior major Nadav Ullman. They launched the app two weeks ago after fine-tuning the program since January. With over 500 likes on Facebook, spread purely from word-of-mouth, they already have hundreds of regular users.
"We realized that a lot of people are looking for designated drivers and safe rides home," Ullman said. "There's not really a good way for them to connect and communicate, so we decided to find a way for them to rideshare."
Sobrio has already earned high praise by winning the inaugural Startup Weekend Storrs 2012, an intense 54-hour event aimed at building an application which could potentially start a business. The company has formed a partnership with UConn's Undergraduate Student Government (USG) to steer a campaign called UConn Drives Sobrio, in an effort to reduce drunk driving on campus.
"The biggest thing that sets us apart from other apps is that you are able to share rides with a community that you already trust," Ullman said. "You must have a UConn.edu email to join the UConn group, which means people who aren't from UConn can't offer you rides."
For critics concerned about security, Sobrio has many safeguards to ensure student safety. The marketplace of drivers and riders is broken up into private groups which are protected by passwords to cater for fraternities and certain housing blocks.
"We designed the app to make it as safe as possible," Ullman said. "You get to pick who you're comfortable with and who you want to share rides with. The first safety net is joining a group with your own network and community. Then you can check people's profiles and you can check their reviews. Even after that, you can still click 'yes' or 'no'."
Sobrio is made to be user-friendly for both driver and rider, as the app provides the driver with a scheduled list with destination, an in-app GPS navigation system and a chat bar to communicate with the rider by text, as well as letting the driver set a small price for the ride. For the rider, it provides an unrivalled source of drivers that they can select from.
"We're focused on making it a perfect user experience. We're doing this for college students, and they're willing to pay the driver because they're grateful for the safe ride home," Ullman said.
The Sobrio team plan to use UConn as an initial testing ground, before expanding to the University of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania State University next month.
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