Uber announced a new account for teenagers that allows minors to take rides without their parent or guardian present.
Prior to today’s announcement, unaccompanied minors were not allowed to request Uber rides. Uber has required users to be at least 18 years of age to sign up for an account since it was founded over a decade ago. But now, the company is allowing teens aged 13 to 17 to have their own account and take their own rides — as long as it’s linked to their guardian’s account.
“Our approach here is to solve a problem that is unsolved, that is a massive pain point in our users’ lives, both the guardians as well as the teens,” Sachin Kansal, vice president for product at Uber, said in an interview.
The new feature was announced during the company’s annual product event, Go/Get, along with several other new services aimed broadly at “family and travel.” But the introduction of teen accounts certainly marks the most significant update to Uber’s ridehail services in years.
Teen accounts are essentially controlled by their parent or guardian. The adult account holder sets up the account, gets notifications when a ride is requested, can track the teens’ ride in real time, and can even communicate with the driver. Parents and guardians can also utilize Uber’s in-car audio recording feature that’s been available to customers through the app since 2021. The idea is to give parents and guardians peace of mind that their teenager is using Uber safely and responsibly, Kansal said.
“The guardian is in control of the account: they can remove the teen account, the payment profile can be removed, they have full visibility,” he said. “But at the same time, the teen has independence, so when they are in a situation [where] they need an Uber ride, they’re able to take that trip.”
Of course, teenagers adept at subverting Uber’s age restrictions have been using the service for years. Data from credit card companies in 2019 found that Uber and Lyft represented 94 percent of all taxi service transactions for customers aged 13 to 18, according to Vox. Anecdotes about teenagers using their parents’ Uber accounts or an older friend’s account are extremely common. And drivers are often put in the difficult position of refusing an underage rider or leaving them stranded.
Under the new feature, drivers are given the option as to whether they want to accept underage riders. The customer will be identified as a teenager in the app when the request comes in, giving them full transparency.
“They’re very excited about this because now it’s all transparent,” Kansal said of drivers. “The guardian has visibility, the teen has all these safety features, and you’re not violating Uber’s guidelines.”
Uber has experimented with allowing teenagers to ride without their parents in the past — with mixed results. In 2017, the company launched a pilot in Seattle, Phoenix, and Columbus that allowed parents to book rides for their teenagers. But drivers weren’t notified when they were accepting a teen’s ride request, leading many to raise concerns about liability. The pilot soon fizzled.
This time around, teenagers who want to sign up for an Uber account will need to go through a mandatory safety training through the app. Drivers, meanwhile, are not asked to undergo additional screening beyond the criminal history and background checks that are already required. And only highly rated drivers will be eligible to accept underage passengers under the new feature.
Uber’s teen accounts will be live in the following 22 cities starting May 22nd:
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Columbus, Ohio
- Dallas, Texas
- Dayton, Ohio
- Houston, Texas
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Nashville, Tennessee
- New York City + suburbs, New York
- Phoenix, Arizona
- San Antonio, Texas
- Tucson, Arizona
In addition to teen accounts, Uber is rolling out a number of additional features at today’s product event.
Uber is partnering with car seat company Nuna to increase the number of vehicles equipped with child seats for parents with small kids. Previously, it was very difficult to find an Uber driver who also carried car seats. But now Uber is hoping to grow those numbers through this new partnership. The Uber-Nuna cars will be available in New York City and Los Angeles to start, with other cities to follow after.
Uber is rolling out a new toll-free number to request rides for customers who may have difficulty navigating a smartphone. The company experimented with using a 1-800 number for ride requests in early 2020, but that pilot was derailed by the pandemic. Now, the new number — 1-833-USE-UBER — will be available all across the US. The feature is mostly aimed at older customers who prefer a toll-free number to using an app.
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