When we considered the theme of "building a better Ann Arbor," we quickly agreed that getting around the city was something that everyone struggles with and that we could find innovative solutions for improving. Most onerous among the many challenges to getting around in Ann Arbor is that of parking. We wanted to make parking easier by providing comprehensive information about parking garages, street parking, and even enable the monetization of unused driveways and front yards by matching people who need a space with those that have it! From here we aimed to bundle in as much useful information to maximize people's enjoyment our wonderful city once their parking problems are a thing of the past!
What it does
XplrA2 uses crowdsourced data to provide comprehensive insight into parking availability and options in Ann Arbor. We cover everything from parking garages and lots to street parking, including cost, availability, and more - we even report parking attendant location - and mood! Additionally, we incorporate non-traditional parking opportunities via our ParkShare functionality, which allows users to advertise their available driveways or front yards (for example during Michigan games or Art Fair!) and to match their availability with eager parkers. We provide up-to-the-minute construction information for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and we even send you SMS reminders about your parking spot!
How we built it
Challenges we ran into
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're particularly proud of our UI. Typically, a handful of developers with only 24H to build an entire product from scratch might not be expected to create something as professional-looking and enjoyable to use as we managed. Additionally, our app "really works" - it would have been easy to hard-code or simulate data or functionality, but our app loads all of its data dynamically from Firebase and sends real texts via Twilio. Integrating Twilio into a web app itself was also quite an accomplishment, since Twilio intentionally makes it impossible! Lastly, we're really proud of our ParkShare concept - allowing people to monetize their driveways and front lawns my matching their availability with the needs of drivers. This could be an app/startup in itself!!
What we learned
We learn a lot about Google Maps and geolocation, since our entire app centers around these concepts! Some of the team were using Vue and Bulma for the first time, so one of the things we did early on was a crash-course in these frameworks so the whole team could contribute to the product. As mentioned earlier, we also learned just enough about Firebase Cloud Functions to trigger an SMS via Twilio on database changes.
What's next for XplrA2
One of the hardest parts of building this product was discarding the ideas that we didn't realistically have time for. We had originally envisioned an all-encompassing exploration app, catering to all transportation methods, including bikes, scooters, and pedestrians/hikers. We would like to extend the crowdfunding functionality that we build for parking data to events, restaurants, and points of interest (location-based local history and fun facts), - allowing people to find things to do once they've arrived - from the smallest enthusiast group gathering to the highest-profile concerts and sporting events. We'd also like to incorporate upvoting and downvoting to help moderate all of the user-submitted content. We would like to add more geolocation-based functionality, including the ability to get directions to a parking spot and prompt you to input your meter details upon arrival. As you return to your car, we would prompt you to update your parking status. We even hope to gamify/incentivize submission of transportation, event, restaurant, and point of interest data in order to build up a healthy corpus of goings-on for our users to enjoy. Finally, we would like to enable social features so that drivers can get in touch to complement each other on their vehicles or let them know about an accidental bumper tap!