(NewsNation) — In Uber’s latest play in the rideshare race, teenagers will be able to ride without their parents or any adult.
This new feature for families means teenagers as young as 13 can have their own Uber accounts and book their own rides. But there’s a catch: Parents get to monitor everything.
Until now, children and teenagers were not supposed to be allowed to use Uber by themselves, and users had to be at least 18 to sign up for an account. Yet that didn’t stop anyone: The hectic schedules of teens has led to parents for years calling for Uber rides for their children.
And teens found their own ways around age restrictions. In 2019, Uber and Lyft represented 94% of all taxi transactions for 13- to 18-year -olds, according to credit card data analyzed by Vox.
“Our approach here is to solve a problem that is unsolved, that is a massive pain point in our users’ lives, both the guardians as well as the teens,” Sachin Kansal, vice president of product management at Uber, told The Verge.
A number of other apps such as HopSkipDrive, which allows riders as young as 6, and Zum, designed to move public school systems, built their businesses around offering safe transportation for kids. Yet to date, rideshare giants Uber or Lyft had not entered the kid space.
Uber says it spent more than a year developing this feature and consulted with safety experts.
Each teenager’s account must be connected to a parent’s account. That means parents can track their kids’ rides in real time — even allowing them to contact the driver. The teen’s smartphone will record an encrypted audio file of the ride. And Uber isn’t letting just any driver pick up kids: The drivers must have high ratings and a certain amount of experience driving for the company.
“By providing parents with safe alternatives to help their teens get around, we hope this will help create more equitable solutions for families facing barriers to transportation,” according to a statement from Uber.
The teens feature will launch on May 22 in more than a dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada.