Inspiration

Every year, Americans order billions of packages and meals to their homes, and companies spend trillions of dollars to build the logistic networks to make those deliveries possible. The costs of delivery, however, are not evenly distributed within that network. Reports from the Capgemini Institute and McKinsey estimate that the “last-mile” segment of delivery consists of 40 to more than 50 percent of the total logistical cost.

Further, the point-to-point model of last-mile delivery relies upon cars and trucks, which are extraordinarily costly to the environment. A study published in the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management found this type of delivery emits 13 times more CO2 than a trip on public transit, and far more than a person walking.

So, it is expensive and inefficient to be able to move a vast number of packages to any arbitrary address in a city. Yet, our cities as they exist today are an incredible network of people moving from place to place. Why not use this existing flow of people to alleviate the last-mile problem? We sought to build a platform to do just that.

We decided to leverage people’s existing routes to reduce the monetary and environmental costs of hyperlocal delivery.

What it Does

HitchHike provides distributed package movement for efficient last mile delivery. Deliverers deliver packages part of the way to their destinations in exchange for a portion of the total delivery fee.

Say Julia lives in North and needs a package from the UPS Store on 53rd Street. Her request goes into the HitchHike Delivery system. Bill is on his way to his apartment on Blackstone Ave, so he signs in to the HitchHike app and picks up the package. He walks three blocks with the package to Blackstone & 55th, where he drops it off at a designated HitchHike Waypoint. Chelsea is waiting for the 55 bus near there, so she opens HitchHike and picks up the package by scanning its QR code. Chelsea is headed home and lives near Julia, so she drops the package at Alexis’s apartment on her way.

After the package is delivered, Bill and Chelsea each receive a portion of the delivery fee Julia paid. Both deliverers used their standard commutes to

How it Works

In order to make our solution, we developed a city street simulation, an delivery platform app, a backend server for the app, and a hardware prototype.

The first component of our project is our city network flow simulation. It is a JavaScript visualization that places packages in arbitrary locations on a city grid, and it simulates how long it takes to get those packages to their (also random) destination. The simulation demonstrates that crowdsourced delivery is feasible in medium-high to high density neighborhoods like Hyde Park. The standard flow of people on city streets, even with a low conversion rate (<<1%), are able to move arbitrary packages to their destinations within an hour.

The flagship component of our project is the app itself: HitchHike Delivery, which allows normal commuters to become deliverers. It provides a map view, which shows the packages available for pickup, which users are able to select and route themselves towards. Once they arrive at the package, they use our in-app scanner to pick it up. The map then provides directions to the next Waypoint, which users walk or take transit to as part of their normal commute. Finally, the user has a profile page which shows previous deliveries, and how much he/she made from them.

It is an Android app written in Flutter. It connects to a Flask backend hosted on Google Cloud App Engine, which manages and maintains the network of packages and waypoints.

The final component of our project is the hardware prototype. We needed an inexpensive, secure package to prevent theft and allow deliverers to scan to unlock. We decided to build a prototype using a cooler from Target, which we modified with an Arduino and some servo motors. The Arduino also has a bluetooth module that connects to the deliverer’s phone to track location and to ensure that the package stays with the user who picked it up in the first place.

Challenges We ran into

We have a number of components to this project, and integrating them was a challenge!

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