Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Competition Year: 2011

Develop an innovative service which solves the problem of urban congestion, pollution and transportation in under-developed countries.

Housing and Transportation


TEDx Boston

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Our Pitch

We have serious problems with urban mobility. Pollution. Congestion. Energy efficiency. Land use. Beijing recently restricted the number of licenses to 240,000 for new cars. Singapore designed a vehicle tax system to limit the total number of vehicles on the road. Congestion pricing has been enacted in London, Singapore, Stockholm and Milan. License plate rationing, which limits the amount of driving based on license plate number, is happening in Mexico City, Bogota, Sao Paulo, Auckland, Athens and Santiago. Next year will be the first time over 50% of the world will be living in urban cities (both developed and under-developed). This will only contribute to the congestion, pollution and energy efficiency problems we already have. Business as usual is not going to work.

Our solution is simple: provide one-way vehicle rentals to urban residents. Like Zipcar, these systems allow customers to rent vehicles on a per-use basis. However, unlike Zipcar, the vehicle rentals are: one-way, rented by the minute tiny, commercially available vehicles (SMART cars). The one-way aspect means users can pickup and drop-off vehicles anywhere within a predefined operating area.

Urban vehicle owners spend 80% of their travel time on short 10-15 minute trips using their own gas guzzling SUVs for small errands such as grocery shopping, picking up dry-cleaning, etc. Today’s large, bulky vehicles consume precious natural resources while contributing to urban traffic and C02 emissions.


Drastically reduce traffic congestion, pollution and vehicle ownership in metropolitan communities around the world

Who We Are

Ryan Thurston (Team Lead/Primary Contact) has 8 years operational experience in tech startups. He previously worked as an early engineer at a VC backed semiconductor startup, which is currently on track to generate $100M in annual revenues and complete an IPO FY2011. Ryan graduated with distinction from the University of Washington, and is an MBA candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Virot Chiraphadhanakul is a PhD candidate in Operations research at MIT. He recently received dual Master’s degrees in Transportation and Operations Research from MIT. His research interests are optimization in transportation systems and logistics and supply chain management.

Aleem Mawani is an MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School. His professional experience spans 2+ years at Google, where he was a product manager. His interests lie in software applications and fleet management solutions for future mobility-on-demand systems.

Ryan Chin is a PhD candidate in the MIT Media Lab. Ryan and his colleagues are building the car of the future, a stackable, electric, shared, two-passenger city vehicle that rethinks urban mobility. This work, in collaboration with General Motors, takes into account problems of parking, congestion, communication, and energy distribution, and considers the best and most efficient uses of available resources in an urban environment. Ryan's interests lie in mass-customization and personalization in product-development processes.

Bob Tiderington has 15 years experience in the automotive industry and currently heads New Business Development initiatives at General Motors. Bob graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Detroit Mercy.

Our Community Partner

Partner Name

Ryan Chin


Boston, MA


The Smart Cities Group pursues sustainability, livability, and social equity through technological and design innovation. We take the particular perspective that cities are systems of systems, and that there are emerging opportunities to introduce digital nervous systems, intelligent responsiveness, and optimization at every level of system integration – from that of individual devices and appliances (a traditional concern of the Media Lab) to that of buildings, and ultimately to that of complete cities and urban regions.


  • Service Location
    Cambridge, MA
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