Within the next few weeks, Bowdoin students will be able to track the location of Safe Ride shuttles using a new iPhone application developed by two Bowdoin students. For over a year, seniors Sawyer Bowman and Henry Pratt have been working on both the app and a website that will allow students to monitors the location of the shuttles during their hours of operation. 

The application allows students to place pickup requests and track the shuttle in relation to their own locations in real-time from either an iPhone app or a program on computers.

“At the moment we’ve equipped one of the two shuttles with a GPS tracking device,” said Pratt. “We’re also letting people place calls from where they are on campus.” 

The application and the website work through a service called “Track Your Truck.”

“They provide the GPS tracker as well as an API [application programming interface] that lets us access the information through network calls,” wrote Bowman in an email to the Orient. “From there, we parse the information and display it back to the user.”

Pratt and Bowman were inspired to begin developing the service during their sophomore year, when they lived far from the center of campus. 

“I used to live at Pine Street and I would call the shuttle for dinner,” said Pratt. “Sometimes I would end up waiting 30 minutes or more, depending on how backed up the shuttle was. It was tough to have to wait and not know when it was showing up.”

In the past, it has not been uncommon for students to call the shuttle and cancel requests to be picked up. This has frustrated both students and drivers. 

“We’re both hoping that this will help reduce the number of canceled calls and make everyone happier with the service in general,” said Pratt.

This is not the first time Bowdoin has attempted to create a shuttle tracking service. In 2011, Information Technology (IT) started a tracking website, similar in theory to Bowman and Pratt’s application.

“We spoke to IT, and they had tried to develop an app previously that would do this, but I guess they never got it finished,” said Pratt. “We asked them if they’d be interested in us working on it, and they said that they’d love to have it.”

IT’s previous attempt to create a tracking service for the shuttles depended on using an iPad in each of the shuttles for tracking purposes. However, Bowman and Pratt purposefully chose to pursue a different direction with their application. 

“This didn’t work because there was too much overhead with making sure the iPads were on, maintenance, et cetera,” said Bowman. “Our solution got rid of these problems because it doesn’t require the driver to do anything. Once the car is on, data is being transmitted automatically.”

The Safe Ride tracking app has been in the works since the fall of 2013. While Pratt went abroad last spring, Bowman picked up working on the iPhone version of the application. They have spent this year fine-tuning the application and putting on the finishing touches before its release. 

According to Pratt, the tracking part of the application and website should be live within the next couple of weeks, with the phone request service soon to follow. The goal is to test out the application towards the end of the fall and to have a full version ready by the spring.