A ride-hailing service that caters to youngsters is allowing them to book their own rides when mom and dad are too busy to drive.
Shuddle is one of a number of new companies that provide rides to eight- to 16-year-old kids who need to get to school, a sporting event or a social activity. On Tuesday it's introducing ShuddleMe, an app that lets the kids book the ride themselves within an hour of when the service is needed.
Before this, parents had to arrange for the car, and do so at least a day in advance. ShuddleMe still requires parental approval.
Besides Shuddle, kid-friendly ride-hailing options include HopSkipDrive and Boost, an experimental service backed by car maker Mercedes-Benz. They're seizing an opportunity created by well-known ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, which all have policies against giving rides to minors who aren't accompanied by an adult.
Shuddle charges a $9 monthly membership fee and its fares are about 15 percent higher than Uber's for comparable trips. The membership fee and surcharge help pay for background checks of Shuddle's drivers.
The company is trying to avoid the complaints that have bedeviled Uber about inadequately screened drivers. In the most extreme cases, Uber drivers have faced allegations of sexual assault and other unseemly conduct.
Shuddle says its drivers undergo extensive background checks and must either be parents or have previous experience working with kids as nannies, baby sitters, coaches or nurses.
Parents can also track the progress of their kids' rides and Shuddle says its own staff also monitors what is happening in the cars on each trip.