CarTel personalizes commutes by using WiFi to network cars

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In February 2012, Transportation@MIT hosted our first data hack-a-thon event, where talents with different skill sets gather and develop projects using trasportation-related data. The theme for this year’s hack-a-thon was transportation in Boston/Cambridge areas. Many interesting data sets were available exclusively for this event. 


With today’s advanced information technology, a massive amount of transportation-related data has been generated continuously through traffic sensors, fare gates, smart phones, social media and so on. Meaningful use of these data can greatly benefit every stakeholder, including transportation agencies, urban planners, policy makers, commuters and most importantly, the society. The utilization of these data is, however, limited by inadequate understanding of how the data can be used; lack of data integration across businesses and organizations; and incompetence to handle complexity of the data.

Transportation@MIT, a coordinated effort to address transportation challenge, sees the need to encourage innovative use of transportation-related data and demonstrate its impacts to the public. Data hack-a-thon has been proven to be an effective way to attract talents to unleash their creativity and collaboratively develop applications, visualizations, or information graphics within a very short time. 


  • To encourage innovative use of transportation-related data and demonstrate its impacts to the public.
  • To establish interdisciplinary collaboration among students and research collaboration with the industry.
  • To expand the transportation student community.

How does it work?

Participants, preferably in a team of 3 to 5 with different skill sets, develop a project using data sets that are publicly available or provided by our sponsors. A project can be, but not limited to, the following.

  • A mobile application that provides useful (real-time) transportation-related information and/or makes daily commutes a better experience.
  • A visualization (image, animation, video footage, or interactive application) that highlights key information from complex data set(s) and facilitates understanding of transportation system performance or transportation demand.
  • An information graphic (tables, charts, etc.) that nicely displays interesting statistics obtained from thorough analysis and fusion of data.

Each team presents their work at the end of the event, and a panel of experts selects the winners.  


This event aims to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration among students. In particular, we expect the following groups of students to participate in the competition.

  • Programmer/Software Developer: develop application
  • Designers/Architects: design visualization, user interface and statistical presentation
  • Engineers/Statisticians: crunch, mine, and analyze data


ServAPI (0:00)
Rob Mcqueen, Anake Sano

Where’s my T? (14:46)
Gal Koren

CollabCab [Honorable Mention] (Part I: 19:20, Part II: 33:27)
Hamed Ghoddusi, James Mullen, Jameson Toole, Michael Winston, Jessica Yurkofsky

Pack Your Knapsack [Winner] (26:55)
Iain Dunning, David Fagnan, Stephen Brown, Adam White, Yangbo Du

Smoothy: Changing Traffic for the Better [Honorable Mention] (37:55)
Cathy Wu, Leo Urbina, Pranjal Vachaspati, Stanislav Nikolov

Hubway Analysis (51:45)
Alice Brown, Josh Westerhold

Flight Search Patterns: Communication and Stories [1st Runner-up] (58:23)
Anjuli Jain Figueroa, Cuicui Chen, Clio Andris

How Taxis Fare: Valuing Your Time In Transit (1:10:39)
Susie Chung Criscimagna, Mark Criscimagna
Fragile Trends: A quick look at Boston Air Search Data (1:21:28)
Akhil Kuduvalli, Lita Das
Visualizing Hubway (1:31:00)

Afian Anwar