Drunk Driving App Wins Cal Poly Mobile Hackathon

Posted by · June 4, 2012 2:11 pm

Two of the participants in this weekend's mobile hackathon at Cal Poly put the finishing touches on their mobile app before the judging begins.

“Am I too drunk to drive?”

It’s a question that many people ask themselves on a Friday or Saturday night and one that California Polytechnic University computer engineering student Anthony Ngu, the newly minted winner of Cal Poly’s Mobile Hackathon, hopes to answer with his mobile app, Should I Drive?.

Should I Drive? puts users through a series of three tests that measure cognitive capabilities to determine whether he/she should call a cab or is sober enough to drive home.  If it’s determined that the user is not fit to drive himself/herself home, Should I Drive? automatically displays a list of cab services in the user’s area.  As a precautionary measure, Ngu says the app defaults to a list of cab services when it is opened.  However, the user can bypass the cab listings to take the cognitive capabilities tests first if he/she so desires.

“I used the one legged test, the Romberg test and a reactionary test for this app,” Ngu says.  “Right now, the calibration on the app is generalized, but it will eventually be calibrated on a per-user basis. The one legged test users the phone’s accelerometer to see how much the user shakes while trying to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Eventually, I’d also like to add an eye tracking device.”

Ngu admits that winning the mobile hackathon came as a surprise and thus, there are many aspects of the app–most notably legal considerations–that he still needs to think through:

“As I was working on the app, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to move forward with it after this event, but winning was confirmation that it is worth working on so I’m going to move forward and continue to develop it.”

Should I Drive? took first place over road trip tracking app, Trackr (second place) and TaskRabbit competitor Neighbor Favor (third place).  A total of seven teams participated in the event, which was organized by Cal Poly’s Computer Engineering Society.  Kevin Sutardji, the Society’s Corporate Liaison, said that he and his team were pleased with the quality of the mobile apps that were developed.

“We asked the judges to evaluate each app on a scale of one to ten based on the overall creativity of the idea, development of the mobile app itself and design.  The teams only had 24 hours to develop their app, so if they had put together a business plan, the judges added an extra three points to the overall score,” Sutardji said.

Experts Exchange was one of the sponsors of this weekend’s mobile hackathon and our own mobile development team lead Michael Spencer was one of the event’s judges. According to Spencer, the judges chose Should I Drive? as the mobile hackathon winner because of its marketability and potential revenue sources.

“Should I Drive? required a relatively low amount of work to make it market ready, and it was the most likely app to be shared between friends (word of mouth distribution) because the standard use case was likely to be one friend using it on another friend who claimed they were ok to drive,” Spencer said. “Additionally, the app has multiple potential non-ad-based revenue sources. Not only could you sell it in an app store, but you could charge local cab companies for priority listing. The judges had confidence that with a bit of funding and more development time, Should I Drive could be a really good piece of software.”

As for why the judges chose Trackr as the runner-up, Spencer said it was a technology driven decision.

“Trackr’s interface simplicity packed a lot of functionality into a single action. Based on a single touch before a user starts driving, an entire trip could be tracked by caravans, friends, family or employers who want to check up on someone’s trip progress. The app somewhat alleviates the ‘are we there yet’ syndrome,” Spencer said.

Ngu received $800 for his first place finish and the Trackr team received $400.  Both Ngu and Sutardji will join the Experts Exchange podcast this week to discuss the mobile and answer a few more questions about Should I Drive?.

  • Mplungjan

    Never needed an app for that:
    1) will there be alcohol where you are going?
    2) will you likely drink any of it?
    If 1 & 2 leave your car at home

    • guesszoo

      Mplungjan: the article clearly stated, “the standard use case was likely to be one friend using it on another friend who claimed they were ok to drive.” So, your comment has nothing to do with anything other than being a good recommendation outside the scope of the whole point of this article.

      • OK, then Mplugjan’s two-input version (requiring no accelerometer, no cognitive capabilities or reaction-time testing) can be implemented using a brick rather than a smartphone: Has my friend been to a place where there was alcohol? Did he drink any of it? I’d also add an optional third input: Do I care if he dies or kills anyone tonight?

        BTW, a great way to improve this app would be to gamify it… leaning heavily on reaction-time testing, have multiple players compete to see who (if any) should be the driver for the trip home.