New GPS feature on the SafeRides app available to students
DPS has officially launched a new GPS feature for SafeRides, which students can access through the Georgetown Mobile App, which is available for iPhone, Android, and as a website. Students can use the app to track the location of SafeRides vans and how far the vans are from their location.
SafeRides is a very heavily used service, providing 1,000-1,200 rides a week, and DPS wanted to ensure that students were able to get the most out of it. Several student groups including Roundtable, IdeaScale, and the Student Safety Advisory board had articulated a desire for improvements to the efficiency of the SafeRides service.
According to Jay Gruber, Chief of Police, “One of the big complaints we heard a lot about was ‘I don’t know when my van is coming,’ and it’s sort of a strange conundrum because we ask people to stay inside where it’s safe, but we’re also not alerting people when the van is close.”
After talking to students and working withDeputy Chief Information Officer Judd Nicholson, the idea of a GPS addition to the App was established. It was easy for the idea to become an actuality. Nicholson said, “We have a very flexible mobile development platform.” Using the same technology as NextGUTS, Nicholson’s team was able to put GPS tracking systems into each of the SafeRides vans.
Now, students are able to go onto the App and easily find where the SafeRides vans are. It’s a similar system to NextGUTS, except students can identify the SafeRides vehicles by an “S” icon.
Gruber said, “The great thing about it is that we give the student calling in for the SafeRide an estimated time.” This feature allows students to stay inside in a safe environment until the van is close and then come outside, without the anxiety of missing it.
The plan is to adjust the app to incorporate student requests to make it as effective and useful as possible.
One suggestion they are currently working with is streamlining the process by eliminating the phone call and having students contact SafeRides directly through the app. Students will be able to notify drivers that they are in need of a ride with one tap. Once the driver receives information on the students location, the student will get a message to say that his ride has been acknowledged.
“The next step, we will probably bring in in a year or so,” said Gruber, “It’s all geared to student safety, keep students safe, and provide a service that is meaningful to them.”