The Rady School of Management is home to a number of innovative startups launched by students and alumni with the goal of changing the world for the better. One of these companies has been making waves since its inception in 2014, recently launching a partnership with one of the world’s leading ridesharing services.
Aira – an operating system that enables individuals who are or visually impaired to navigate their world with instant access to information – recently secured a partnership with Lyft to ensure transportation is accessible for blind or visually impaired individuals.
So how exactly does this unique company operate? A customer of Aira – dubbed an explorer – uses Smart Glass technology in conjunction with a smartphone device to connect with a network of highly trained people, called Aira Agents, allowing the agents to see a real-time video feed of the user’s surroundings. These agents stay on the line with the explorer to help locate items at the grocery store, navigate through crowded airports, and even compete in marathons.
The partnership with Lyft allows explorers to connect with a driver while staying on the line with an Aira agent, rather than ending an Aira call, contacting Lyft and getting back in touch with an agent once the Lyft request is placed. Aira agents can help explorers navigate to designated pick-up spots, identify vehicles and drivers, provide ETAs, cost estimates, and other ride details.
Aira’s commitment to encouraging explorers to embrace autonomy pairs perfectly with Lyft, which supplied 160 million rides to users in 2016. The new partnership supports Lyft’s commitment to increasing accessibility for their diverse community of riders.
“Lyft is an extremely popular service used by a large number of Aira explorers,” said Amy Bernal (MBA ’14), Vice President of Customer Experience for Aira. “This integration makes it easier for explorers to identify their ride in a busy location, or know which car theirs.”
“Lyft is committed to be a model for the type of community we want our world to be: diverse, inclusive, and safe,” says Suman Kanuganti, Aira Founder and CEO. “Aira’s mission is to give people who are blind or low vision the power of information. I am psyched about this partnership as it’s designed to provide an end-to-end enhanced experience that makes transportation more accessible to all blind and low vision people, anytime and anywhere.”
Suman Kanuganti (MBA ’14) launched Aira during his time as a student at the Rady School of Management as part of the Lab to Market sequence which helps students transform ideas into functioning startups.