Problem Statements:

Many Detroit residents depend on public transit, but they often have limited options for traveling to work, school, and other activities, or for getting there safely.

Your mission: build apps that help provide access to safe, efficient, reliable transit for all Detroit residents so they can get to their school, work, and other activities securely and on time. You are not required to use a specific technology, however we have listed many data sets below you may find useful.

Some of the issues facing Detroit commuters include:

  • Long wait times that require access to safe and comfortable waiting areas
  • Security cameras on some, but not all, buses
  • Bus drivers don’t always let people out at their desired stop and don’t always stop for commuters at a bus stop
  • Schedules aren’t reliable and commuters risk arriving late to school or work, even after allowing ample travel time

Below are a few ideas for apps that address these problems. These are meant to kick-start your brainstorming, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. We welcome your ideas and solutions!

You might build an app that:
  • Helps commuters find safe shelter while waiting for a bus
  • Fosters a good relationship between commuters and public transit operators
  • Identifies alternatives to public transit (biking, ridesharing, walking)
  • Helps commuters plan for inclement weather
  • Identifies areas that are conducive to safe waiting
  • Leverages crowd-sourced data on transit delays, finding locations that are conducive to being safe waiting areas, and travel alternatives
  • Has a “call for help” or 911 button for contacting authorities quickly without showing that you're on a device
  • Allows users to turn on and off tracking when they're using public transit, so friends and family can keep an eye on them
  • Allows riders to get information directly from public transit authorities about changes in travel time, delays, etc., or that allows riders to share feedback with transit systems (DDOT,SMART, People Mover, etc.)
  • Helps identify travel buddies
  • Rewards transit operators for courteous, consistent service
  • Helps schools and public / private transit systems work together to help Detroit kids get to class on time.
Developer Starter Kit:

Check out our Developer Starter Kit for more problem statements, app ideas, and relevant data all on one spreadsheet.

Open data:

Public transit data 

  • DDOT: bus schedules, fares, passes, ADA services, rider alerts, transit safety
  • gov Detroit: GTFS; DDOT bus stops
  • SMART: bus schedules, fares, trip planner, bike rack use, Smart value pass, MyConnector
  • TransitWiki: DDOT .zip file data
  • APTA: 2015 public ridership transit data by region
  • TransitLand and TransitFeeds: aggregate data on routes, stops, and timetables from hundreds of public transit systems
  • Amtrak: Schedules, trip planner, tickets
  • Detroit People Mover: Station Guide, Ride Info, passes, tickets
  • M-1 Rail (Q-Line): Station stops, schedule, tickets

Traffic and road data

Personal safety and demographic data

Maps / public resource locations

Background articles and reports
Existing apps

OpenXC is an API that offers drivers more insight into how their cars run. Using the OpenXC platform, you can access the OpenXC data and start making vehicle-aware applications, even if you don’t own a Ford or even a car.

Using the OpenXC vehicle interface, you can read vehicle data in real-time — like the steering wheel angle, GPS position, and vehicle speed. Currently, OpenXC supports over a dozen different measurements on a growing list of Ford vehicles. To get started, review the OpenXC site to get access to OpenXC-formatted vehicle data, important documentation, and OpenXC FAQs.

Resources for native Android apps 

For Android app development, make sure you check out the Android Library Setup and App Tutorial pages on the OpenXC site.

Please note that if you want to use OpenXC to interact directly with a Ford vehicle, you’ll need to download the closed source CAN translator firmware directly from Ford and sign a developer agreement.

Resources for web apps and testing 

And more… 

SYNC® AppLink™

SYNC AppLink is a suite of APIs that provides the capability for mobile developers to AppLink-enable their mobile applications. Developers have the ability to extend the command and control of the mobile application’s features to the vehicle occupants in a responsible, non-distracting way through the use of familiar in-vehicle Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) such as SYNC Voice Command, Steering wheel and radio buttons.

The applications run on the mobile device without the need to install any third party software on the vehicle head unit. The AppLink APIs exchange program data as well as command and control information over a known transport layer, allowing SYNC to exchange messages with an AppLink-enabled application in a pre-determined format. This technology is similar to how Bluetooth phones and digital media are integrated and used on the SYNC production platform.

Using the recently released SYNC 3 AppLink Emulator, developers can now test how their AppLink-enabled appswill look and work on a SYNC 3 interface – without access to an actual vehicle. The emulator allows a smartphone to connect to a computer – just like it would normally connect to SYNC 3. The software platform then mimics SYNC 3 by connecting to the app running from the phone. You can set certain conditions – such as vehicle speed, location, temperature and mileage – to test how your app responds to each.

You can download the emulator at — you’ll need a Ford Developer account for access (create a developer account here).

Non-distracting in-vehicle interfaces

If your application is intended for use while driving, the Application must conform to In-Vehicle Approval Criteria from Ford for safe and non-distracting in-vehicle interfaces. (Note that a free Ford Developer Account is required to access these criteria. You can create a free Ford Developer Account at For more information, see the national generally accepted principles for in-vehicle interfaces.