By Neil Kulkarni T’16
Neil is a first-year student at Tuck who spent the past four years working in strategy consulting at Deloitte advising clients in the CPG and health care industries. Neil is currently the technology representative on the Student Board and is also actively involved in tripod hockey and the Business and Society Conference. Neil grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Emory University.
There are so many things I love about living in the Upper Valley: nature and wilderness, hiking, skiing, hockey, bears, deer, wild turkeys, ice fishing, getting to REALLY know my classmates. One of the very few things that I don’t love, however, is that there really aren’t any cabs (or Ubers) to get my fellow Tuckies and me home after a night at Murphy’s, Tuck’s unofficial pub.
Luckily, Tuck has its own system to make sure I get home safely and in one piece: SafeRides. Four nights per week (Wednesday – Saturday), two Tuckies or Tuck Partners (TPs) volunteer to sober drive from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Better than a taxi or Uber, SafeRides also makes sure your car gets home with you, so you can still get to class on time the next morning. Just another example of the wonderful Tuck community in action!
How did SafeRides work?
Students/TPs would sign up on a spreadsheet to SafeRide for one or two days throughout the year—a part of the “pay-it-forward” culture that exists at Tuck. On the day they planned to drive, the students would send out an email (usually pretty entertaining) to the Tuck community with their phone number (or sometimes Snapchat, Instagram, or Tinder accounts). Throughout the night, people could call them to ask for rides. The two drivers would come pick you up in one car, and one would drive your car back home. Pretty simple, right?
The ‘Issue’ We Noticed
Early in the year, I was talking to Suraj Venkitachalam (SUV) T'15 and mentioned some things I noticed with the way the “system” operated. Sometimes drivers would get requests from three-to-four people and have to maintain a mental queue. Sometimes the drivers were in separate cars (driving someone back) and would get calls from different people, resulting in different responses on order and priority. Sometimes they couldn’t tell exactly where someone was located(especially an issue for first-years still learning their way around the Upper Valley). Sometimes they would have a hard time figuring out the phone number to call someone back (with a couple of different “unknown” numbers in their call history).
Our Technology Solution
There was an obvious solution that would allow us to address a majority of these issues: a SafeRides app! During the winter term, SUV and I worked with Tuck IT to develop an MVP (minimum viable product) for the SafeRides app. Students login using their Tuck login, put in requests (location based on GPS), and view their position on the queue. Drivers “Clock in” during the beginning of their session, view and accept requests through the app, direct the app to map a route using Google Maps, notify the requestor when they arrived at the location, and maintain the single “source of truth” for the queue. The system can send both SMS and email notifications to drivers and riders for different actions based on their preferences specified in the app.
The SafeRides app has been a huge step in the right direction. Although this is currently just an MVP, we are working on adding additional features (stick vs. non-stick) and hoping to build a native iOS and Android app next year. The technology space is something that I’ve been interested in during my first year at Tuck. This has been a great opportunity for me to apply some of the skills I’ve learned throughout the year, learn from our second-year student board tech rep/guru SUV, and help our great Tuck IT team (Travis Gere, Joanna Lovett, and Geoff Bronner) build something that will have a positive and lasting impact on the Tuck community.