Charlotte is a rapidly growing city.
From 2016 to 2017, the city of Charlotte grew by 1.8 percent, adding 15,551 residents — nearly 43 new people each day. But that’s nothing compared to neighboring Fort Mill, South Carolina which grew by 15.9 percent in the same time frame and Waxhaw, N.C. which grew by 6.9 percent.
Steven Zhu moved to Charlotte in 2016 from Detroit.
“I love this city for its nice weather, low cost of living and location,” Zhu said. “But I also observed bad traffic.”
In 2016, more than 77 percent of all commuters drove alone to their places of employment.
Zhu, originally from China, moved to the United States in 2011 and earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Binghamton University. He then spent time in Detroit working on Ford Motor Company’s global carsharing and ridesharing projects, leading market analysis and statistical modeling for innovation in Asia, UK and the United States.
“I wanted to contribute what I learned during my time at Ford,” Zhu said. “I wanted to help improve Charlotte’s traffic, lower its carbon footprint and create a happier commute for residents. Most employees travel in the same direction to get to Uptown in the morning, using I-77, I-85 or Independence Blvd. and then the opposite direction for the evening commute. So I asked myself, ‘why not carpool?’”
But carpooling can be a hassle. Trying to match up schedules with neighbors, friends or coworkers can be difficult. Zhu took this into consideration when he founded Zome Carpool.
Zome Carpool is an app available on iOS or Android that simplifies carpooling by matching riders with available rides. Its mission is to provide a flexible, social and safe rideshare for commuters.
How Does It Work?
The Zome Carpool app became available to download in April 2018. Developer Aaron Luan and Zhu worked for five months to put the app into production.
Once the Zome Carpool app is downloaded, the option to ride or drive can be selected. Zome matches drivers and riders based on their home distance and destination. In order to provide a convenient ride, Zome will try to find the best match that minimizes cost for both riders and drivers. Rides cost between $3 and $10 depending on the distance of the ride.
Zhu estimates the monthly cost for single drivers in Charlotte is about $600 a month, including gas, parking, vehicle maintenance and depreciation.
“Commuters using Zome to rideshare could cut costs by at least 50 percent,” Zhu said.
Less is More
Success to Zhu means a reduction of vehicles on the road.
“I love Charlotte and I want to be successful at reducing traffic,” he said.
Right now, almost 800 people in the greater Charlotte area use Zome to get around town.
Zhu is committed to his goal of reducing Charlotte’s traffic and uses Zome as a driver and rider.
“We had one user that told us they were spending $40 a day on Uber before they found Zome,” Zhu said. “I like getting feedback. It’s really encouraging.”
In order to grow his user base, Zhu is looking to partner with companies and colleges that might offer commuter benefits for employees and students.
“We would like to offer Zome as a benefit to their employees,” he said.
Ultimately, Zhu wants to expand to other cities.
“We want to make ridesharing a smart and convenient commute option,” he said.
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