A school bus is shown in vehicle's mirror as students pour out of Roosevelt High School on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, in Seattle.
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A school bus is shown in vehicle's mirror as students pour out of Roosevelt High School on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

'Kid Uber' has launched in the Seattle area

Parents and schools have a new option for transporting kids around the Seattle area: ride-share.

HopSkipDrive, a ride hailing company similar to Lyft and Uber, is for kid passengers. It launched in Seattle and King County on Monday.

Using HopSkipDrive, parents book a ride at least eight hours ahead of time for their child. The founders say the safety features set it apart from other ride-hailing companies. Users can see driver bios hours beforehand, pick a code word for the child and driver, and watch updates of the trip as it's happening.

The company and its rivals are now in over a dozen U.S. cities. HopSkipDrive was started by three moms in Los Angeles, including CEO Joanna McFarland.

She says the company has a support team that is monitoring rides in real time.

"We're the only ones in the industry that have that... it's like air traffic control, we're really making sure that every kid gets where they need to go safely," McFarland says.

They use the term "care drivers" for the workers, as a mix between drivers and babysitters. And the job qualifications are steep.

"They have to have five years of care-giving experience," McFarland says.

Drivers are finger printed, background checked, and undergo a car and driving record inspection.

"We meet every driver in person, so we do far more than most families do to vet a nanny or a babysitter, and then there's all the safety features during the ride," she says.

The cost of rides reflects those added safety measures: Rides start at $22 in Seattle. The company brands it more as a driving nanny than simply a ride-share, and as such rates are based off rates for area childcare.

McFarland says the company will also partner with Seattle Public Schools and other area districts to help them get kids to school who aren't close to bus routes.

King County law enforcement are still working out safety recommendations for people who may want to use the service. The sheriff's office has warned adult riders in the past about verifying that their driver is who they say they are.