Students’ Concept for Mobility App for the Blind Wins National Challenge from Toyota and Net Impact

Summer Internship for Winning Team to Advance App Concept and Support
Toyota’s Partner Robotics Work

PLANO, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Imagine an average commute. Perhaps you wait for a bus, walk through
crowded streets and ride an elevator up to your office. Now, imagine
doing it without being able to see clearly or even at all.

A team of students did just that and came up with an idea for a solution
that won first prize in the Next
Generation Mobility Challenge
, a new competition to inspire
millennials to address critical mobility needs from Net Impact, Toyota
and the Toyota Mobility Foundation. The students’ winning concept,
StreetSmart, is an app that would help people who are blind or visually
impaired navigate their surroundings with greater confidence. The
winning students are: Esther Kim (Rhode Island School of Design), John
Mathai (Olin College), Ayush Singhal (Babson College) and Niklaus Sugiri
(Babson College).

Activated by voice command, the StreetSmart app would provide users with
audio alerts about upcoming hazards or changes to their commute, such as
broken escalators, bus service changes and construction sites. It would
rely on existing GPS location services, crowd-sourcing traffic
technologies and real-time updates from users on routes’ conditions.

The team envisions that the app would work in tandem with Project BLAID,
a wearable device in development by Toyota that also works to improve
the mobility of people who are blind and visually impaired. For a
preview of Project BLAID, visit
to access a short video of an early-stage version of the device.

“Toyota launched the Next Generation Mobility Challenge with Net Impact
because we want to inspire millennials to join us in solving the most
critical mobility issues facing us all,” said Latondra Newton, Chief
Program Officer, Toyota Mobility Foundation. “We loved the StreetSmart
concept because it builds on our work to help communities with limited
mobility do more so they can go more places and live better lives. We
congratulate the winners and thank them for their creativity, smarts and
hard work!”

“We are thrilled that Toyota is leveraging the talents and passions of
young people through this challenge,” says Liz Maw, CEO, Net Impact. “We
applaud the StreetSmart team for designing a solution with an eye
towards scaling for social impact.”

Nearly 670 students from 60 colleges and universities across the country
participated in fifteen campus events during the Challenge, pitching 154
ideas. A panel of judges from Toyota and Net Impact selected
StreetSmart’s winning concept from three finalist teams, based on the
clarity of goal, project design, social impact, feasibility, creativity
and the results of a public vote. StreetSmart’s video pitch garnered
63.6% of the public vote.

The winning team has been offered internships to delve into a deeper
understanding of the mobility needs of the blind community, build the
business case for the StreetSmart app and support Toyota’s Partner
Robotics work to advance the freedom of mobility for all. Kim, Mathai,
Singhal and Sugiri – along with two finalist teams – will have the
opportunity to attend the 2016 Net Impact Conference in Philadelphia
this November on behalf of Toyota.

In addition to local faculty and experts, more than 50 Toyota team
members engaged with the Challenge, including Kristen Tabar, vice
president of the Technical Strategy Planning Office at Toyota Technical
Center (TTC). In addition to being on-the-ground at the chapter events
to help students develop their solutions, Toyota team members served as
judges, selecting the chapter winners, the three finalists and the
ultimate winner. The three finalists had the opportunity to meet with
Toyota mentors to refine their proposals.

The other finalist teams were:

  • University of Oregon and Oregon State students Carolyn Taclas, Keala
    Verigan, Sydney Quinton-Cox and James Greisen, who conceived a mobile
    community center to offer a range of pop-up services to meet community
    needs; and
  • Northwestern University and University of Illinois students Maria
    McKiever, Szymon Gluc and Shangyanyan Li, who devised a system that
    would allow drivers to offer their car trunks to others for hire as
    mobile mailboxes.

About the Next Generation Mobility Challenge

Launched in 2015, The
Next Generation Mobility Challenge
is a competition from Toyota and
Net Impact to inspire millennials to develop solutions for critical
mobility needs in local communities and around the world. Held at
fifteen university campuses across the country, the challenge invites
multi-disciplinary teams of students to participate in half-day design
sprints to develop solutions for mobility issues that address community,
connectivity, or sustainability. Local transportation and technology
experts from Toyota and universities provided feedback and real-world
perspective to the students’ concepts.

is executing the challenge through Toyota Motor North America and the
Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF), which was created by Toyota in 2014 to
help more people go more places – safely, easily and sustainably – so
they can live better lives no matter where they are.

About Toyota

Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world’s top automaker and creator of the Prius and
the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the
way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Over the
past 50 years, we’ve built more than 30 million cars and trucks in North
America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and
directly employ more than 44,000 people (more than 34,000 in the U.S.).
Our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than
2.8 million cars and trucks (nearly 2.5 million in the U.S.) in 2015 –
and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years
are still on the road today.

Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country. As
part of this commitment, we share the company’s extensive know-how
garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community
organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. For
more information about Toyota, visit

About Toyota Mobility Foundation

The Toyota Mobility Foundation was established in August 2014 to support
the development of a more mobile society. The Foundation aims to support
strong mobility systems while eliminating disparities in mobility. It
utilizes Toyota’s expertise in technology, safety, and the environment,
working in partnership with universities, governments, non-profit
organizations, research institutions and other organizations to address
mobility issues around the world. Programs include resolving urban
transportation problems, expanding the utilization of personal mobility,
and developing solutions for next generation mobility.

About Net Impact

Net Impact is the world’s best training ground for the next generation
of change agents. Our programs—delivered from our headquarters in
Oakland, CA, as well as globally through our 300+ chapters—connect our
members to the skills, experiences and people that will allow them to
have the greatest impact. With over 100,000 members, Net Impact takes on
social challenges, protects the environment, invents new products and
orients business toward the greater good. In short, we help our members
turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action. Visit


For Toyota
Amy Schultz, 646-805-2825
Catherine Muriel, 415-495-4230 x314