Wheeli, launched in July 2014, is a new website that makes hitchhiking “cool again” through technology. While using it, college students can search for a ride to or from campuses, connecting with other students and traveling together.
The founder is Jean-Pierre Adéchi, who got the idea when he traveled to different cities in the south of France and in Spain. While there, he used a carpooling network and knew he had to bring it back to the U.S.
“I enjoyed the social experience the most,” Adéchi said. “I got to meet new people, we got to know where everyone was from and overall having a great experience.”
Wheeli is exclusive for college students and students need a .edu email address to be able to sign up. On Wheeli, students post their ride, the location they are going to and the location they are leaving from. Other students log on and see if they are going anywhere that other students are, and ride with them. On Wheeli, students are also able to find other students and mutual friends through Facebook, and soon Twitter and LinkedIn.
“I am very pleased with the success that we have had from Wheeli so far,” Adéchi said. “We had our first Wheeli success in August.”
Right now, Wheeli is exclusively in the Northeast, but expanding day by day. Adéchi was recently invited to present the website to San Francisco University and its student senate.
Some Canadian universities have reached out to partner with Wheeli.
“We seek trying to aspire adventure,” Adéchi said. “We are talking to college campuses and we have got nothing but great feedback.”
Adéchi explained that it is tough to get started, and there won’t be many exact destinations and locations students can choose from until it gets more known.
“Everyday we keep at it, get more people involved and signed up,” Adéchi said.
Wheeli calculates the cost of your trip, factors in gas prices, distance and vehicle MPG, and suggests how much students should charge each rider. The driver can increase or decrease that suggested price.
“I think I would like this better if I could meet these people before,” Christy Ogden, a biology student said. “I would feel weird picking up random strangers.”
Students on Wheeli use filters to choose people from their college, major, hometown, interests and gender. For women, there is an option of just going with other women, and no men. Students can also check out a driver’s profile before riding with them.
“I like the idea of this,” Megan Cleary, an anthropology and art history, student said. “But I don’t think I would want to ride with students I didn’t know, even if they did go to my school.”
“I think it would be better if only my Facebook friends could see this,” Ogden said. “I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if all my friends on Wheeli knew what my car and license plate was.”
On the Wheeli website, there is a “What’s going on?” feature. This tells students what is going on around them that they would be interested in going to. There are concerts, speakers and events.
“Economically, it makes sense,” Adéchi said. “We want students to Wheeli because it is cheaper, more convenient and more fun.”
Adéchi explained that currently there are no other networks for college students that are doing this, and finished with, “I’m not complaining.”
“My whole thing is about passion, being driven and persistence,” Adéchi said. “I like to imagine it as taking something from your mind and bringing it to real life.”
Wheeli currently has a promotion. The first 25 drivers to post their Thanksgiving trip home on Wheeli receive a $50 gift card to the store of their choice.
“We can’t become the generation that is boring and hides behind screens instead of hitting the road discovering great places and making great connections along the way,” Adéchi said.