By Larry Magid
Uber, Lyft and traditional taxi and car services are great for adults who need to a ride now and again, but if I still had a young child, I don’t think I’d want to chance it by having him or her picked up by one of those drivers. I’d not only want someone who is vetted as an excellent driver and safe around kids, but I’d want to know that they are good with kids too.
That’s where Zum comes in. It’s a San Francisco area startup that provides rides for children five and up. And its drivers are vetted for being not only safe drivers and law abiding citizens, but also parent and child friendly. The cars do not have baby seats but they do have booster seats.
“All of our drivers have a child care background,” said Zum founder and CEO Ritu Narayan, who told me that parents get assigned a small pool of drivers to chauffer their kids and that the person who is picking up their child is likely not to be a stranger. She said that 90% of the families who use Zum use it two or more times a week with about 40% using it on a daily basis. She said that drivers are checked out with the FBI as well as the Department of Motor Vehicles. The companies interviews drivers to make sure that they’re good with kids.
Scroll down to listen to the entire 13 minute interview with Zum CEO and Founder Ritu Narayan
She said that “through our app we send a profile of the driver to the parent,” and that the parent can share that profile with school authorities or others so that they know it’s OK to release kids to the driver. She added that “as part of the ride we do safe hand-off” which means that the driver will get out of the car and knock on the door to pick up the child.
The Zum app not only lets parents schedule rides, but tells updates them on the status of their ride and where the car is at any given time. Parents get a notification that the driver is on the way, that the child has been picked up and when the child is dropped off. The app lets you live track the ride itself and the company, said Narayan, is working on adding a video check-in for parents that want to look inside the car during the ride.
Prices are based on distance, starting at $16 for a single ride but parents can also pool the ride, reducing the price to $8 or more per child. A five-mile ride would cost about $20 with a 10 mile ride at about $24. Drivers sometimes also hang out with kids during the activities they’re being taken to at an additional cost of $6 per 15-minute period.
The company currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area but plans to expand to 14 additional cities including Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York, Seattle, San Diego and other cities. The city profiles, said Narayan places where there are a lot of professional parents and working parents and there is a suburb involved where parents are usually traveling in both directions”
Narayan said that she’s also considering expanding to provide rides for seniors and other who might need special care.