Students Create App for Safe Driving

By Elizabeth Sawyer

Despite understanding that using a phone while driving is dangerous, many people routinely give into the temptation to send a quick text while on the road. And despite state laws banning the use of phones while driving, the practice is still dangerously common. Middlebury students Terry Goguen ’16 and AnnaClare Smith ’16 have created a new way to discourage texting and driving that rewards drivers for keeping their eyes on the road. Their mobile app, JoyRyde, incentivizes safe driving by tracking drivers’ phone-free miles and rewarding them with points that can be redeemed for discounts, coupons or charitable donations.

“In my experience, having a positive outlook on things instead of a punishment is the best way to go,” Goguen said, describing the logic behind their model of rewarding users for driving safely. JoyRyde lets users “incentivize and motivate themselves to do the right thing.”

Smith explained the unique nature of JoyRyde, in that “there are other apps that try to prevent texting and driving, but none of them have the same incentive system.”

It appears that this system may be key to creating safer roads by accomplishing what current campaigns and legislation cannot: changing drivers’ behavior. In a survey conducted by Smith and Goguen, 86% of people reported that legislation punishing those who text and drive does not affect the way they drive. As a result of this conclusion, the pair decided to go a different route, and allow users to, in Goguen’s words, “be their own agent of change.”

JoyRyde is simple and user-friendly. A driver starts a new ride and the phone begins tracking the driver’s miles. If the user leaves JoyRyde to go to a different app, JoyRyde will stop tracking and the driver will no longer receive points. When the user next opens the app, they will see an x indicating a violation. Three violations terminate the ride. Users can currently redeem points for discounts and coupons at Cumberland Farms, B. Good Restaurant, and the brands Skida and Sword and Plough, both founded by Middlebury students. Part of Goguen and Smith’s current vision involves establishing new corporate partnerships and expanding JoyRyde’s connections with charities.

JoyRyde recently partnered with non-profit Text Less Live More, an organization that increases awareness of the dangers of texting and driving. Users can use their points to purchase a donation to Text Less Live More. While this is currently the only charity partnered with JoyRyde, the app will partner with additional charities to provide users with even more opportunities to turn their phone-free miles into donations.

Goguen and Smith attribute much of JoyRyde’s success to the opportunities available to young entrepreneurs at Middlebury. When the pair first developed the idea for JoyRyde, Goguen contacted Middlebury’s Programs for Creativity and Innovation. Staff at the PCI informed him of a J-term class titled Midd Entrepreneurs, in which students work with representatives from the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies to turn their business ideas into reality. JoyRyde won a grant last spring from MiddChallenge, a PCI competition. The app also won the most recent Fresh Tracks Road Pitch Riders Choice Award, a competition administered by motorcyclists with business and financial expertise who ride to small towns to hear pitches from various entrepreneurs. The resources Smith and Goguen took advantage of at the College gave them the practical knowledge necessary to successfully present their app to these investors and pitch competitions.

Neither of the founders see JoyRyde’s success slowing anytime soon. The app currently has 150 users, and at the time of the pair’s interview with The Campus, the app had reached 1200 drives in the previous 12 days. Goguen plans to continue his work with JoyRyde after graduating, and to continue to increase the app’s corporate partnerships and improve its software.

To download the app, drivers enter their email on the JoyRyde website and then receive an email with a link to download. Goguen and Smith estimate that the app will be available on the App Store within the next couple of months. JoyRyde is free, and always will be, assures Goguen.

“We think that’s the best way to do it because the more people using it, the more lives we’re going to save,” Goguen said.