An innovative app that incentivizes commuters to change their driving habits for improved regional traffic has officially hit the streets of Tucson.
Last year, the University of Arizona received a patent for the app created by civil engineering associate professor Yi-Chang Chiu. Chiu founded a startup company, Metropia Inc., and in November licensed the patent from the UA to commercialize the technology.
Metropia also worked with the Arizona Center for Innovation, or AzCI, to advance the business model and has successfully launched the company with help from other supporters within Tucson’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The company also has released the app in Austin, Texas, and is in discussions to add more cities to its portfolio.
"Finally launching the app to the Tucson community, which has watched our app grow firsthand from that very first Startup Tucson weekend, is a particularly proud moment for myself and my team," Chiu says. "Tucson and the University of Arizona have provided pivotal support. It's been an excellent experience."
In a proactive effort to alleviate congestion in the Tucson metropolitan area and reduce its impact on air quality in the region, Metropia Inc. is partnering with the Pima Association of Governments, or PAG, the region’s metropolitan planning organization.
Research gathered by Metropia will benefit PAG’s travel-reduction program to promote ridesharing. Sun Rideshare, for example, is a regional travel assistance program at PAG. Metropia also intends to collect travel time and speeds for PAG’s Travel Demand Model, which is used for planning future road projects, forecasting pollution levels and ensuring compliance with air-quality regulations.
"Metropia is a prime example of a UA-derived company partnering with the community," says David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona. "The team has put in the hard work, shown great focus and cooperation, and brought all the right people into the process from both inside and outside the University to ensure success."
Metropia’s unique approach, first described in UANews last November, empowers motorists to make decisions that work for their schedules and incentivizes them to save time and earn rewards while reducing the strain on Tucson's roads. Rewards come in the form of points, which can be redeemed at local partnering businesses such as Fed by Threads, RBar and Ear Effects. Motorists also can choose to exchange points for gift cards at the likes of Target, Amazon and Starbucks. Points even can be exchanged for the planting of trees.
Most navigation apps start working when the user gets into the vehicle, but by then it's often too late. By planning with Metropia, users get a clear picture of what their upcoming commute will look like, as well as updates when crashes and lane closures require an earlier departure or a detour.