Parents, you’re busy. When you’re not transporting children to and from school, you’re taking them to karate, soccer practice, swim meets, clarinet lessons, ballet recitals — the list goes on and on. And chances are you’re working a full-time job, too. In fact, you’re not alone. A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that in nearly half of two-parent households (46%), both parents work full time. No one can be at two places at once. And when your community carpool schedule gets out of whack because another parent bails, what do you do? What options do single parents have? Can parents turn to technology in times of transportation crisis? “It takes a village” after all.
Rideshare Apps to the Rescue?
“My main concern is the motherless car. Young children in the car unsupervised or incapable of responding, being sent somewhere by absentee parents.” This was a comment left on another one of our articles about the future of the auto industry. This idea of a motherless car is interesting, and it turns out it’s not farfetched either. While driverless cars aren’t out for public use yet (with the exception of Waymo’s early rider program in Arizona), traditional rideshare companies have been solving parents’ transportation woes for quite a while.
Josef Blumenfeld lives in Boston metro area. He’s the founder of EdTech180, a boutique PR practice for the edtech industry. “My 16-year-old daughter uses both taxis and Uber. She’s not allowed to travel alone, or without us knowing, and she must use Uber Black (no random UberX). Also, she must have ‘find my friends’ turned on on her cellphone. The benefit — aside from not having to pick her up and drive her all over the place — is that we can track the ride every step of the way.”
The problem? Well, it’s against the terms of service for many rideshare apps. Below are Uber and Lyft’s policies on minors.
Can Kids Use Uber?
In order to sign up and request a ride, users must be 18 years or older. Minors are only allowed if accompanied by an adult. From Uber’s terms of service: “The Service is not available for use by persons under the age of 18. You may not authorize third parties to use your Account, and you may not allow persons under the age of 18 to receive transportation or logistics services from Third Party Providers unless they are accompanied by you.”
Can Kids Use Lyft?
Just like its competition, Lyft does not allow minors to ride without an adult. Lyft’s policy on children (17 and under): “Children are not permitted to ride alone in a Lyft vehicle, but are welcome to join you in a ride. We’re happy to give kids a ride as well as adults, as long as your children have the proper car seats that fit legal requirements according to state or city law. You should plan on providing your own car seat for children that require one.”
But Do Parents Abide?
Parents are circumventing this by allowing children to use their accounts, often because they are left without a choice. “She has the app. It’s my account, so I can track the car.” Blumenfeld continues, “She goes to private school in a Boston suburb — no public transportation and her friends and activities are all over the area. The rideshare is a wonderful thing.”
It’s up to rideshare drivers to cancel a ride if they receive a request from a minor. The Rideshare Guy blog contributor Scott Van Maldegiam writes in his post Are Uber Drivers Allowed to Transport Minors?: “At this time, all of the responsibility has been placed on the account holders to abide by the rules. Of course we know there are plenty of people who haven’t been abiding by the rules. As drivers, we are not required to check if someone is a minor or not. We are not the liquor store carding purchases. So, drivers cannot get in trouble and be deactivated by the rideshare companies just for giving underage riders transportation. It is up to the driver’s discretion whether or not to give rides to minors.”
Do You (or Would You) Allow Your Children to Take Rideshares and Taxis Alone?
Out of curiosity, we polled the Twitter public to get their thoughts on the issue.
Do/would you allow your kids to take Ubers or cabs alone? What about future driverless cars? Tell us your thoughts on "motherless driving."
— The Zebra (@TheZebraCo) May 5, 2017
@TheZebraCo My mom did when I was young…one cab driver was drunk. I would NOT!
— SisterResister (@DanerE_57) May 6, 2017
@TheZebraCo I am among the minority. I do not have kids. However, driverless cars are safer than human-driven cars, so i feel perfectly safe with them.
— HiItsMe ❄️ (@HiItsMeHaHa) May 8, 2017
@TheZebraCo I'd be hesitant to let my kids ride alone – that's for sure.
— Harry Campbell (@TheRideShareGuy) May 5, 2017
The results of this poll are not a reflection of startups who have seen a need for a rideshare service for children. There is certainly demand.
Sara Schaer is the CEO of Kango, a rideshare service based out of the San Francisco Bay Area that offers transportation and babysitting services for children of all ages. “Parents are grateful to have a safe, reliable service they can trust with their children. They most often rely on Kango to be able to work for a complete business day without interruption, or to take a business trip — without sacrificing their kids’ activities. We also have quite a few doctors and surgeons using the service as their hospital schedules may require long hours. Sometimes parents of several children, or blended families, need Kango to help with one or two kids, while they drive the others. Some parents even go back to work or to school to pursue a new degree, relying on Kango’s combination of rides and childcare. There is a lot of demand.”
For working parents, a combination rideshare and babysitting service means the kids get to attend all of their activities while mom or dad gets their work done, too.
Schaer continues, “Over half of Kango’s ride requests involve getting kids to or from school — both in the morning and the afternoon. A third of rides involve getting to or from after-school activities such as sports, dance, music lessons, etc. Last-minute rides are in the minority, but we do handle them. There are also rides to doctor’s appointments, tutoring, or even rides for school sports teams going to practice.”
Safety Concerns For Kids Using Ridesharing
Rideshare companies have already received some slack for their safety practices; the lack of fingerprinting is a major pain point for cities and rideshare companies alike. Both Uber and Lyft left Austin after Proposition 1 passed, which required drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks. Now, the Texas legislature is considering banning cities from enforcing their own rules (like fingerprint-based background checks) for rideshare companies. If passed, Uber and Lyft may return to Austin later this year.
However, this list of Uber and Lyft incidents compiled by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is pretty jarring. Josef Blumenfeld understands these concerns, which is why his daughter must always be accompanied by at least one friend. “I’ve heard that there’s an Uber-like service with only women drivers on the horizon. When that’s available, we’ll use that exclusively.”
Schaer understands these concerns, too. “Kango, unlike Uber and Lyft, has a license which includes special authorization to transport unaccompanied minors. All drivers must have childcare experience. Our screening process takes between 2-4 weeks and includes meeting the candidate in person, two background checks (which go back to when the individual turned 18), DMV record checks, fingerprinting, TrustLine caregiver certification with the State of California, a vehicle inspection by a certified mechanic, and more.”
Most of the rideshare apps for children undergo stricter background checks and security measures than Uber and Lyft. Below is a list of apps we found.
Rideshare and Carpool Apps for Children
Where: Los Angeles, Orange County, San Jose, San Francisco Bay Area
Services: Rides and carpools
Features: Schedule rides ahead of time. Set up carpools. “Meet” drivers. Track rides in real time.
Driver qualifications: 5 years of childcare experience, must be 23 or older, reference checks, background checks, fingerprinting, TrustLine certification, DMV check, must own or lease a vehicle not more than 10 years old seating 4-7 passengers, vehicle inspection, interviews, in-person driver orientation
Age restrictions: Children must be at least 6 years old
Good to know: No weekend service. Booster seats provided, but not car seats.
Where: San Francisco Bay Area
Services: Rides, carpools, and babysitters
Features: One-time or ongoing requests. Booster or car seats available if needed. Parents can interview drivers or sitters by request. Parents can connect with others parents by joining neighborhood and school groups. Drivers can sign kids in or out of activities.
Driver/sitter qualifications: TrustLine certification in California, fingerprinting, background check, DMV check, vehicle inspection, phone screen, two reference checks, in-person interview. All drivers and sitters must complete in-person training.
Age restrictions: Children under the age of 2 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Good to know: Sitters can care for several children at once, as long as it’s agreed in advance.
Where: Seattle area
Services: Carpooling (community-sourced rides)
Features: Users enter their common routes/availability and matches with parents in need in a ride for their child.
Driver qualifications: Parents create a community group or join an existing one to connect with other parents and offer carpool rides to each other. Drivers/parents must possess a valid driver’s license and have their own vehicle.
Age restrictions: Unclear
Good to know: Since this is community-sourced, it’s not technically a rideshare or ride-hail app. Parents join a network of other parents that are part of the same school, club, or neighborhood. Pogo recommends paying a standard carpool reimbursement, typically $5 per rider.
Where: Boston area
Features: On-demand and scheduled rides. Parents can interview drivers before taking the ride. Add to your Circle of Trust® so they can be auto-assigned for your next ride or choose a specific driver. Live video streaming and ride tracking. Mobile panic alarm. Family passwords. Video permission for rider pickup.
Driver qualifications: Must have a car and smartphone. Valid drivers license. 5 years driving experience. Background check. Reference check.
Age restrictions: Children must be at least 8 years old
Good to know: The junior account app with limited access (for children ages 8-17) must be tied to a full access app (for parents).
Where: San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County
Services: Single-family rides, carpool rides, babysitters
Features: Dedicated pool of 1-5 drivers assigned to your family. Multi-sibling multi-hop rides for siblings needing service at different locations. On-demand and scheduled rides. Carpool options to save money. Live tracking. Password exchange.
Driver/sitter qualifications: Drivers must be 21 or older. Must have at least 3 years of childcare experience and 3 years of driving experience. Vehicle must be a 2008 or newer four door car in very good condition. All drivers must pass “National level FBI and Department of Justice background checks, DMV record and referral checks on an ongoing basis.”
Age restrictions: Rides are available for children 5 and up
Good to know: Booster seats available by request. Kids App allows children access to their rides, driver profiles and tracking.
What do you think? Would you use a rideshare service to transport your children? Are there other companies and apps that we should put on our list? Tell us in the comments below.