UberFAMILY: Finally, a Taxi Option for People With Kids

Childless people, let me let you in on a little secret: Car seats are a huge pain in the ass. They’re no big deal if you own a car, I guess, except for the fact that your kid probably squawks at the prospect of being immobilized in that iron maiden too long.

Car-sharing just got a lot more doable for people with kids. Photo: ##http://blog.uber.com/uberfamily##Uber##
There’s finally a way for people with kids to catch a ride. Photo: ##http://blog.uber.com/uberfamily##Uber##

For car-free parents, on the other hand, picking up a Zipcar for a quick trip involves carrying around a bulky, 18-pound car seat while also carrying your child or at least making sure he or she isn’t running into traffic. Spontaneous taxi-hailing is out of the question. Getting a ride home from a friend is tricky.

Someday, the technology will undoubtedly improve. Child restraints will magically rise up out of the backseat, or inflatable car seats will come into vogue (and meet safety standards). Until then, there is, finally, uberFAMILY.

The “ride-sharing” giant today announced the DC launch of a new service, uberFAMILY, which allows users of either the luxury black sedans or the more low-cost UberX alternative to click a “family” button to request a car outfitted with a child seat. They even get their drivers trained by the Car Seat Lady on how to install them. The service has been available in New York since May.

It’s not such a complicated concept, but it’s an overdue one, and one that surprisingly few conventional taxi companies have bothered to implement.

Uber’s take on kid-friendly travel isn’t perfect. If your kid is under a year old, 22 pounds, or 31 inches, the forward-facing car seat Uber provides will be too big. They don’t have boosters for bigger kids. And the $10 surcharge will keep budget-minded families from using this as anything but an emergency measure. But it’s a nice gesture toward inclusiveness and could be a big help for families trying desperately to get home by naptime.

  • hyllas

    Actually the technology has already improved. We are a car-free family and have used RideSafer travel vests for the times we get a car pickup with our kids for a few years now (and loaned them to many traveling friends with kids). Both of ours fit in a backpack with room to spare. Note that like Uber they don’t work for the littlest kids, though.

  • BBnet3000

    If youre renting for a whole day, traditional car rental companies have car seats on hand (at least when I worked at one at SFO they did) in the various sizes by weight/age.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    In some countries where I’ve travelled, the airport taxi stand has a cache of car seats (in various sizes) so traveling families can get from the airport to city center, at least.

    Of course in those places there also tends to be fast and frequent rail service from airport to city center as well.

  • cjlane

    Was going to post the same thing.

    Also, would note that for the smallest kids, it’s unlikely one would be going to one’s zipcar (etc) w/o the kid in a ‘bucket’.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    So this makes Uber’s and Lift’s violation of omnibus regs all across the country okay. Look, I like the technology but I just don’t like the way these companies willfully broke the law. I understand that once in a while you need to break a few eggs but we are a nation of laws last I checked.

  • We’re a nation of cars, and we’ll use anything (apps, seat-sharing services, lawbreaking) to avoid facing the consequences of that.

  • Livery cars are usually exempt from car seat laws.

  • laughtiger

    It is a bit surprising to see a corporation with Uber’s right wing agenda written up on this blog.

  • Joe Linton

    Doesn’t make them safe, though.

  • The problem is that the taxi industry is simultaneously extremely powerful (when it comes to maintaining its stranglehold at least) and extremely unknown in most circles, including most politically-savvy people that aren’t focused on urban issues. It took companies like Uber and Lyft to demonstrate how much better things could be, and now they have their own lobbying wing of happy customers to fight the (mostly pointless) regulations that make app-based taxi services illegal. They’ve very clearly demonstrated that the laws against them did nothing for anyone except a few owners of taxi companies and taxi medallions whose interests never should have been elevated above those of consumers in the first place.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I understand Shane. While arcane, the old rules were the only thing we had up until technology changed the game. But when taxi medallions cost tens of thousands I can understand these companies being unhappy with such disruptive technologies undermining their holdings.

    Then there is the matter of the Uber / Lyft cars not being inspected for safety. Still, I think the compromises cities like Seattle are making will end up benefiting the industry.

  • Us too- the vests are amazing. I keep a RideSafer and a Bubblebum booster with us on long bike trips too, just in case. It’s true rental cars have seats, but the charge for them in most cases. We use Lyft, Uber, Zipcar, and cabs- so grateful for these products! (Only good for ‘bigger’ kids, though- RideSafer starts at age 3.)

  • Alex Brideau III

    True. And judge if you will, but my five year old and I ride in traditional and “peer” taxis with a certain frequency, albeit for fairly short, low-speed trips. FWIW, I’ve found that Uber / Lyft / Sidecar drivers tend to follow safer driving practices than their medallioned counterparts.

  • Best practices in car seat safety actually indicates children should remain rear-facing until at least 4, as is the norm in Sweden, where they lose essentially no young children each year to car collisions. UberFamily is simply encouraging outdated and dangerous practices by encouraging the use of forward-facing seats as soon as legally permissable. A 1 year old has no business whatsoever forward-facing. See: http://thecarcrashdetective.blogspot.com/2014/06/why-rear-face-your-car-seats-past-age-2.html

  • misslowry

    Yes your right they should remain facing backwards until then but that is just what an infant car seat is normally referred to as but you can purchase a toddler car seat that is rear facing as well but sadly most parents don’t and think that once their child is out of an infant carrier that they can face frontwards

  • misslowry

    Does anyone happen to know if UberFamily is offered in Columbus, Ohio? I cannot find this information anywhere

  • shortnorthmom

    I can’t find it anywhere for Columbus, OH either. Would be nice if they offered UberFamily!

  • Chelsey Stanko

    Is UberFamily offered in Miami, FL ?

  • Unless you have a really small kid wouldn’t regular seat belts work? I imagine more kids would want to emulate adults and put on bigger seat belts.

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