Uber has announced uberFAMILY, a subset of uberX that caters to families with kids. Launching first in New York City, the service offers car seat-equipped vehicles for a $10 surcharge.
UberFAMILY, news of which leaked out last week via VentureBeat, uses top-rated drivers from uberX that have been trained and certified in car seat installation. In New York, uberX operates as a commercial service rather than the ridesharing option used in some cities. Uber worked with safety design firm and manufacturer IMMI to create a custom seat for the program. The carseat accommodates children aged one year and up.
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To try out the service, you have to enter “FAMILY” as a code in the app to unlock the uberFAMILY option. For Mother’s Day weekend, Care.com is sponsoring uberFAMILY to waive the $10 fee. The caregiver service also paid for the initial batch of car seats, but future drivers will have to pay for their own seats.
Uber NYC GM Josh Mohrer described the program as “emblematic to our commitment to safety.” Mohrer added that the company had heard from its riders that kids around New york were being transported without car services in taxis and other car services.
UberFAMILY drivers will store the car seats in their trunks and install them for passengers when they arrive at a pickup spot.
Since it’s a pilot program, uberFAMILY availability will be inconsistent at first. If it succeeds, Uber plans to expand it to other cities.
Coupled with the recent $1 “Safe Rides” fee added to uberX ridesharing, Uber has been placing a strong emphasis on safety.
“Uber has always been and will always be the safest ride on the road. That’s been a commitment from the beginning,” Mohrer said.
With that in mind, adding a child seat service made perfect sense, since it’s the only safe way to transport kids by car.
When I asked whether the $10 fee will feel like a “family tax,” Mohrer reminded me that its Uber doesn’t employ its drivers so it can’t force them to do anything.
“We wanted to find a price point that we felt was reasonable,” he said. “We needed to make this interesting for drivers such that they would want to be participate.”
Drivers have to invest in the program by buying the car seat and learning how to install it. Pickup times for uberFAMILY will also tend to be longer. Mohrer added that Uber thinks it’s “a pretty good deal” compared to other alternatives, but it’s open to revisiting the price in the future.
Uber has been using New York as a test site for new services. Last month, the company announced uberRUSH, a bicycle courier service in Manhattan.