Alums start company to connect students with safe, sober drivers

August 11, 2015
By Bill Krueger

A pair of recent NC State computer science grads are giving students at three Raleigh colleges a cheaper and more personal way to get to and from local nightspots.

Arjun Aravindan and Tomer Shvueli are partners in Campus Cruizer, ride-sharing service created last year for NC State students. Starting fall semester, the company plans to serve nearby Meredith College and William Peace University as well.

Arjun Aravindan

Arjun Aravindan

“We’re really just trying to provide a safe, convenient ride for students to allow them to go out and drink responsibly, knowing they can have a safe ride back that’s cheaper,” says Aravindan, 22, who got his bachelor’s degree this summer. “It eliminates all excuses to get behind the wheel while they’re drinking.”

Cruizer’s drivers are college students whose driving records and insurance coverage are pre-screened.

This summer, the service is available from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Come fall, Aravindan expects to resume 24-7 operation with 40 drivers. Cruizers travel within a 3.5-mile radius of campus. A trip to downtown nightspots from Wolf Creek, which is roughly that far, runs $8 to $9, compared to about $15 in a cab, Aravindan says.

Once students sign up for the service through Facebook or email and download the iPhone or Android smartphone app, getting a ride is as easy as typing in the desired destination. The app uses GPS to identify the rider’s location, offer an estimated cost and route. When a customer confirms, a notification is sent to the closest available driver. Passengers pay electronically, through the app.

Shvueli

Tomer Shvueli

Shvueli, who graduated in December, had used a similar service at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., and loved it. He approached Aravindan, whom he’d known since high school, with the idea in 2012, and Cruizer was up and running by February 2014.

“We saw a need for this before Uber and other ride-sharing apps came to NCSU, so taxis were the only option,” Aravindan says.

Cruizer provided about 400 rides to NC State students last year. More than 1,000 students are registered users.

Aravindan says a big reason for the rave reviews is that the drivers are students too — and maybe even a friend or friend of a friend.

“We’ve seen people will wait a little longer to get their own friend driving them,” Aravindan said. Developers are working on way to match customers with drivers who are on their Facebook friends’ list or who share friends in common.

Although drivers must be students, rides are available to others who register, including faculty and staff, Aravindan says. During signup, the app asks for an .edu email address, but accepts customers without it.

Campus Cruizer is a product of another venture born at NC State, Lithios LLC, an applications development firm. DeShawn Brown, who graduated last year in computer science, is CEO of Lithios, and Chris Woodlief, who expects to graduate in December, is its chief technology officer. Aravindan and Shvueli are also officers in the company, which designs and develops iPhone apps.

The company’s other apps include Snappy Bird, a photo-sharing game; and Offline, billed as “an insider’s guide” to the best places and weekend events in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Charlotte. It boasts 30,000 users.

— Carole Tanzer Miller

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