On Saturday, June 6th, I attended Hack My Ride 2.0, the Valley Transportation Authority’s follow up on its first hackathon hosted last October. This time around, the event served as a kickoff for the three month challenge to create technology to transform how we get around in Silicon Valley. While not a requirement to attend the event in order to participate in the challenge, the room was full of hackers forming teams and brainstorming ideas that they hoped would help them net part of the $30,000 in prizes.
The event served as an unveiling for VTA’s beacons, pocket-sized devices for installation around the city. The beacons simply broadcast an identification code, the rest is up to the developer. An example idea would be to set up beacons at every bus stop, so your smartphone could send an alert when your stop is coming up. Since beacons can provide accurate location information, even indoors, other ideas include route-finding that could direct you towards your transfer or to the nearest public restroom, and even assist in the creation of a better class of apps for riders with disabilities.
To fuel this innovation, hackers had a steady supply of Kara’s Cupcakes to keep their sugar rush going, and lunch was provided by Oh Miso Hungry and Curry Up Now, two amazing food trucks that were a welcome change from the typical stack of pizza boxes I usually see at hackathons. (pro-tip: wholeheartedly recommend the Sexy Fries from Curry Up Now)
The best part of this event was having the subject matter experts from the VTA onsite to bounce ideas off of. They did a great job giving examples for projects that could qualify for some of their award categories like the Best Crowdsourcing Application, Best Use of Beacons, or the Ridership Growth or Retention Award.
Teams were eager to present their ideas. Projects included mapping accessibility for riders in wheelchairs and bikers, a real-time personal transit assistant for people without smartphones, and figuring out how many bike racks are available on the next bus.
If this kickoff event is any indication, we can expect to see some hugely innovative projects coming out of this challenge within the next three months. Thanks to everybody who came out to #hackforchange!