Uber Kids

By Jeanne E. Murphy posted 10-14-2019 11:26


What parent hasn’t thought for a second about calling a ride-share for their school-aged child? I mean, Uber and Lyft have been a boon for college drinkers (the most ubered-to location in Michigan is Scorekeepers bar in Ann Arbor). Why can’t it be a boon for busy, professional, schedule-challenged parents of minor children? It turns out that in limited areas of the country, calling a ride-share for your child is an option.

In the San Francisco Bay area, LA, San Diego, Dallas, and Virginia (close to DC), you can call up a ride-share to take your child to and from school, to practices, and to rehearsals and birthday parties. These services take steps to put parents at ease regarding their children’s safety during the rides. Bubbl, in Dallas, hires off-duty or retired police officers. “CareDrivers” for HopSkipDrive are almost universally female, and they must have five years of childcare experience. In addition, parents enter a code word into the CareDriver app, and that code word is shared with the driver, who uses it to connect with the child. ZemCar, in New England, allows parents to watch live video of their children en route.

While the demand for rides for kids is enormous, one of the problems these companies face is that kids all need rides at the same time—before and after school. And two rides a day may not be enough work for the drivers. Other hurdles include the rigorous vetting of drivers and the requirement that these companies comply with privacy laws regulating data collected from minors. These challenges result in a more expensive service. But while some services have gone out of business, other companies are making it work. Zum, based in California but also operating in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Illinois with more locations coming, claims to have transported 750,000 children for five million miles since 2014.

It may be only a matter of time before these ride services discover the metropolitan Detroit area. Possibly soon, when a case blows up and you can’t make it out of the office in time to get your child to soccer practice, you can grab your phone and book a ride.