Atlanta students pitch taxi service for wheelchair users, win contest

Sally Xia, Riley Keen, Kris Weng and Pranav Nair (not pictured) came up with the on-demand concept of “Para Pickup” as an alternative to public paratransit transportation services, which need to be scheduled a day in advance.

A team of four Atlanta college students won a national contest and summer internships at Toyota for pitching an app-based taxi service that would give people who use wheelchairs a better way to get around.

Toyota and Net Impact announced Monday the Georgia Tech team as the winners of the Next Generation Mobility Challenge, according to a news release.

Sally Xia, Riley Keen, Pranav Nair and Kris Weng came up with the on-demand concept of “Para Pickup” as an alternative to public paratransit transportation services, which has to be scheduled a day in advance.

In a video for the concept, one of the students acknowledges it sounds like “Uber for disabled people” — but says it’s not.

“Uber has a great business model, but we’re choosing not to follow it because they’ve already tried and failed to target this demographic,” he says.

Toyota has a competitive advantage because software companies don’t have the faculties to put the vehicles on the road to meet the demand, according to the video.

The Georgia Tech students will continue to develop the concept while interning at Toyota’s North American headquarters in Plano, Texas. They could also be considered for funding to make the app a reality.

The Next Generation Mobility Challenge launched in 2015 and is intended to inspire millennials to use design thinking to solve mobility issues. Nearly 600 students participated at 15 events across the country before the winning team was decided.

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