Hackathon Aims to ‘Reboot the Commute’


Honolulu has some of the nation’s worst traffic, even taking the top spot from Los Angeles in 2011. It’s only one of the myriad urban ills we have on Oahu, but it’s a high-profile one that absolutely affects our ostensibly great “quality of life.”

Tomorrow, a hackathon will attempt to focus some of Hawaii’s most innovative and creative minds on this problem. “Reboot the Commute” is a two-day urban mobility design challenge that will start with great ideas and end with actual prototypes that could be built into business or even city-scale solutions.

While hackathons are all the rage, I’m big on civic hacking, and hope “Reboot the Commute” is only the latest sign of the local revival of the tech industry’s interest in helping the community. And the good news is, Honolulu has accumulated a number of promising ingredients that could be mixed into new transportation recipes.

We have a robust bus transit system (with an API!), and a rail transit system slowly taking shape. We have ride-sharing programs both from the public sector as well as disruptive startups (though there have been a few bumps in the road). And talented friends of mine are, at this very moment, working on bringing car sharing and bike sharing to this city.

Participants in “Reboot the Commute” will be able to work with all these elements, as well as come up with entirely new ones, to help Honolulu residents spend less time in traffic and more time enjoying life.

“We are looking for innovations in the connected, autonomous, electric and shared vehicle space along with ways to solve some of the greatest challenges facing our urban centers (moving people and goods more efficiently) — all while decreasing the resulting environmental impacts,” organizers say.

While it’s been described as an “app challenge,” teams and members don’t have to be app developers (or even propose an actual app). Like all good civic hackathons, there’s a role for every one, for anyone motivated to be part of a creative solution.

And the rewards for the best ideas include $3,000 in prizes, as well as unique opportunities to take their idea to the next level. An opportunity to pitch at the next Startup Paradise Demo Day is on the table, as is a foot in the door for an upcoming cohort of the Energy Excelerator.


As part of the program, there will be featured speakers, including Evan Rapoport from Google on “Moonshot Thinking in Transportation.” Blake Burris and Chris George from The Cleanweb Initiative and Vinli will also be featured. On the local front, Bikeshare Hawaii president Ben Trevino and city community building lead Harrison Rue will also take the stage.

Organizing partners of “Reboot the Commute” include the Energy Excelerator, HTDC, Jump School, Box Jelly, and ProtoHub Honolulu, which is hosting the event.

The event starts at 6 p.m. tomorrow, May 22, with teams forming by 9 p.m. Teams then have until 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 23 to build their prototypes, after which they will pitch their ideas and judges will pick the winners in three categories:

  • Data in Transportation
    Best solution using/gathering data (e.g. crowdsource reporting, data visualization)
  • Efficiency
    Best tools for making transportation more efficient (e.g. parking, maps, notifications)
  • Alternate Modes of Travel
    Best solution for advancing alternate modes of travel (e.g. bike, rail, bus, rideshare)

“The focus of the event is to come together as citizens, entrepreneurs, innovators and developers or anyone else that has an interest in improving our infrastructure here in Hawaii and coming up with real solution to real problems that many of us face every day,” organizers say.

For more information, visit the “Reboot the Commute” information pages on either the Energy Excelerator or HTDC websites, or just register online via Eventbrite. The event is also part of ChallengePost.

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