(This is the second entry of a new weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.)
For busy parents, Uber has become an essential part of their daily routine. The logistics of maintaining a career while making sure that one’s children get from school to ballet or soccer practice and home again are migraine-inducing. That’s to say nothing of teenagers without licenses or cars who desire some measure of independence. I have on multiple occasions been tasked with shuttling teenagers to and from school, to dances, or just to hang out with their friends.
There’s just one small problem: both Uber (section 3 here) and Lyft prohibit unaccompanied minors from riding in their vehicles. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know this. Most drivers are unaware, and so are most passengers. I only discovered the rule while doing research for this article, and I’ve been a driver for almost three years! The no-minors rule is ignored by some knowledgeable drivers and passengers anyway; it’s not enforced by anyone at the corporate level, and probably exists just as a legal cover-your-ass policy in case an unthinkable situation occurs.
Well, if you’re now unsure what to do with that Uber Family Profile feature, there may be other alternatives in your area for getting the kids from place to place. So-called “Uber for kids” services like the now-defunct Shuddle are filling the gap by advertising safety first. Their drivers go through stricter background checks, and in some cases are female only. The downside is that they’re more expensive and less widely available.
- Zum – San Francisco Bay Area
- Kango – San Francisco Bay Area
- Pogo – Seattle (this is more of a carpool service than an on-demand one though)
- HopSkipDrive – Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland CA
Yeah, I know, it seems like we’re hogging all the fun on the west coast. Hopefully these services will become popular enough to expand in the near future. For now though, it seems that Uber and Lyft are content to look the other way as long as there’s not an executive being interviewed.
What about the babies?
Another, larger difficulty for parents is using ride share with babies. Uber does offer an option to choose a vehicle with a car seat, but only if your child is 12 months or older (front-facing car seat age) and you happen to live in New York City, Washington DC, or Philadelphia. Lyft has no car seat options at all, and I’m unaware of any ride-share startup that offers car seats, not even the ones mentioned above.
If your baby needs to travel with you, you’ll have to bring and install your own car seat. The driver will wait while you do this, just make sure they’re able to pull over in a safe location (you should do this anyway as a matter of course). Drivers can’t hold up traffic while you’re strapping the baby in.
If you don’t have a car seat… well, you’ll need to hope you get a driver that doesn’t mind breaking the law on your behalf. Most Uber and Lyft drivers will refuse to take you if you insist on carrying a baby in your arms instead of properly secured, even for a short trip. The risk of legal liability is too great, for one. For two, I doubt any human being trying to make an honest living wants to be responsible for an infant getting hurt in an accident. Neither does any parent.
Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!