Equal Rides was developed by three North Carolina A&T students to address the issue of homelessness and poverty, and lack of votes from this marginalized group in the Greensboro, NC area. In Greensboro alone, there are more than 1,000 people that go to sleep homeless. Not only does this poverty negatively affect the community, but also the process to exercise the 15th Amendment right to vote has become extremely difficult due to racial gerrymandering in Greensboro. Both issues mainly affect people of color and low-income families in the community. Equal Rides wants to combat these issues by providing reliable transportation for those in poverty because a 2015 Harvard study found that access to reliable transportation is the biggest factor in determining whether someone will escape poverty and avoid homelessness, according to The cost of public transportation adds up quickly to the point of becoming unaffordable.

What it does

Through Equal Rides, those who are dispossessed can access free transportation within the city ​to their jobs, schools, hospitals, etc. by volunteers. To promote the right to vote, our transportation service provides access to voting polls and state governmental facilities so that the homeless can get proper identification and documents. Since this is a non-profit organization, people are able to donate money for gas cards to provide to our volunteer drivers and other basic necessities for the homeless, such as groceries, toiletries, and clothing. Equal Rides hopes to bridge the gap between those who have and those who have not to give equal rights to all no matter the situation.

How I built it

We built our product using site builder and IBM’s Watson Assistant API. To build the website, we started with a template and used our skills in HTML and CSS to design the site to fit our needs. On the website, our ChatBot, Finn, can help users request a ride, volunteer, or donate. Also, the site provides more information about the services Equal Rides provides and how people can help the movement.

Challenges I ran into

One challenge we ran into was the issue of implementing a Google Maps feature to our bot. We resolved the issue by inputting links into our chatbot’s responses that would redirect the user to a more personalized map that highlighted where certain resources were near them depending on their location. Another challenge we faced was creating a domain name for our site. We are limited by our funds so we could not buy a domain.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

One accomplishment that we’re proud of is our ability to communicate and collaborate in an efficient manner. We were able to exchange and build off of each other’s ideas until we reached our final product idea, all while keeping a positive attitude and having fun. Another accomplishment we’re proud of is our ability to learn how to navigate and use IBM’s Watson Assistant API, which was a tool we have never used or even heard of before. Our final accomplishment is the way we were able to work around certain issues that we faced due to either the lack of knowledge and/or lack of time we had during this event (e.x. Our challenge with Google Maps).

What I learned

While creating this project, we learned how to use IBM’s Watson Assistant tool, which allowed us to build our chatbot. Also, we learned more about web development through the use of to create the Equal Rides site.

What's next for Equal Rides

Currently, Equal Rides is mainly for those in North Carolina. However, within the future, our plan is to make this a nationwide operation. We hope to create a bond and connection between those who have and those who have not, and encourage hearts to give more. Another way we could improve our product is by improving the dialogue flow of the chatbot. Right now, once you enter a child-node of a conversation, you have to re-prompt the parent-node to access a different child-node.

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