OPINION By Angela Gosnell The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
It seems every month now there's a new addition to the on-demand sharing economy, and last month was no exception.
"Shuddle," a ride-sharing service described as "Uber for kids," is now adding a carpool extension, jumping on the bandwagon of LyftLine and UberPool, which offer on-demand carpools for strangers going in the same direction at the same time.
That's right, it's a car service for kids, so that you can save yourself an extra trip.
Adding the carpool feature allows the service to be more accessible to families that can't afford the ride solo, just like sharing a taxi with someone rather than taking one on your own.
"We've heard people say that at $15 or $16 a ride, is that really a service all busy families can access?" Carly Lutz, Shuddle's senior vice president of family experience, said in an interview with Forbes. "We feel very strongly that at $8 a ride, it starts to become more available and accessible to a broader group."
Is Shuddle's carpool service really so much different than organizing a carpool in your neighborhood or school?
"Families are trying to do this work anyway," says Lutz. "I know that my 8-year-old daughter is going to be at school or camp with a friend. We know who the families are who are going to be at these activities, but actually figuring out the carpool is complicated. What Shuddle Carpool allows families to do is literally say to each other, let's carpool together, we're both going to camp."
When I was a kid we didn't have school buses in our area, so my parents arranged a carpool with our neighbors to get to and from school each day. It seems Shuddle carpool service is almost the same thing, but fast forwarded to today's busy world of working parents on tight schedules with limited time.
Shuddle rides must be ordered at least one hour in advance and the company currently charges a $9 monthly fee in order to use the service, plus the per-ride fees that are reportedly cheaper than a taxi.
The biggest concern any parent would have with such a service is safety. Shuddle relies on earning parents' trust and all drivers (who are primarily women) must go through background checks and have caregiver experience.
"Trust and safety are the cornerstones of the whole service," Shuddle CEO Nick Allen said in an interview with Business Insider. "It's just the table stakes for this business."
The unique feature of Shuddle is that it knows when a driver is speeding or braking too quickly behind the wheel. It can even detect if a driver is texting while driving by tapping into his or her smartphone sensors, according to Business Insider.
With features like that, I extend a warm welcome to the digital age of carpools.