New app incentivizes Austin drivers for using navigation technology

Metropia founder Yi-Chang Chiu spent four years working on the algorithm behind his mobile traffic navigation app. It launched May 6 in Austin. Metropia founder Yi-Chang Chiu spent four years working on the algorithm behind his mobile traffic navigation app. It launched May 6 in Austin.[/caption]

Metropia founder Yi-Chang Chiu talks with former broadcast journalist Judy Maggio about the creation of Metropia and how it encourages changing driver behavior by getting people to think about planning their driving trips. Metropia founder Yi-Chang Chiu talks with former broadcast journalist Judy Maggio about the creation of Metropia and how it encourages changing driver behavior by getting people to think about planning their driving trips.[/caption]

A mobile app released May 6 in Austin offers drivers rewards for using its navigation technology to provide them with the most efficient route to their destination.

The app, called Metropia, differs from other traffic-navigation apps such as Waze, which users access at the beginning of a trip. Metropia allows users to schedule trips in advance to find not only the best route but also the best time to depart.

Through a partnership with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is overseeing construction of the MoPac toll lanes, Metropia received federal funding for its development.

"We've been really focused on mobility," said Mike Heiligenstein, executive director for the Mobility Authority. "We've been trying to think about other ways to get engaged in facilities that are not tolled."

Founder Yi-Chang Chiu said he spent four years working on the algorithm for Metropia.

“Now you are able to see in the future when’s the best time to leave, what’s the best route to take,” he said, adding it encourages forethought.

Additionally the app sends a user an alert if an accident or road closure occurs on the suggested route to allow the user to change plans or when he or she decides to leave. Chiu said multimodal options will be released this summer.

“We focus on behavior change, discovering more commuting options for you, and with our partners we offer incentives to see if you are willing to try other options,” he said.

Drivers are awarded points for using a suggested route. Those points may be redeemed for gift cards, song downloads or other merchandise such as an electric bicycle.

Austin-based semiconductor AMD plans to encourage its employees to use the app as part of its 2020 Mobility Solutions goal to reduce peak-hour solo commutes by 20 percent. Global Sustainability Manager Justin Murrill said efforts to change driver behavior had plateaued at AMD, and he said using Metropia will help the company with one of its strategies aimed to meet the 20 percent goal: flexible schedules.

“Until recently we really haven’t had a tool to help facilitate that strategy,” Murrill said.

Jeremy Martin, senior vice president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said the city needs more companies such as AMD stepping up to change driver behavior.

“Having those early adopters here in Austin that can share their experiences both positive and negative and provide those best practices to peer companies will be very important,” Martin said. “Changing the way we do things is a challenge.”

Metropia first launched in March in Tucson, and Chiu said he is planning to launch in New York City in June. For each city launch, he said it takes between three to six months to tailor the app to each city’s needs. For more information visit www.metropia.com/austin.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and later senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels.



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