ridesharing for kids

New convenient ridesharing service for kids rolls out in Houston

The new service rolling out in Houston is part Uber for kids, part carpool. Photo courtesy of HopSkipDrive

Living in Houston is great, but it does present some challenges — especially for busy families. Imagine this scenario: it's Tuesday morning, Mom has an early office meeting, Dad has to fly out of IAH on business, and three kids have to be transported to two different schools ... and it all has to happen before 8 am.

That scene probably plays closer to reality for many Bayou City parents. Add into it the regular crush of our city's congestion and it's enough for anyone to lose their mind.

Enter HopSkipDrive. Part Uber, part carpool the service just launched in Houston, billing itself as a safe an innovative transportation solution for both families and schools. It's already working with more than 170 schools and districts nationwide in cities in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C.

The company provides transit solutions for students of all levels and abilities who may have different schedules from day-to-day, as well as youth in foster care and families whose school choice placements don't fit neatly into a bus routing plan.

The system works similarly to other ride shares. Parents download the HopSkipDrive app or use the company's website to request rides for children who are at least six years old. Parents can customize ride instructions with notes about carpool line, pickup and drop-off procedures, and other details. Before the ride, parents receive a photo profile of their CareDriver, which they can share with their child and their school. During the ride, parents receive progress alerts at each step.

If all that has alarm bells going off in parents' and educators' heads, HopSkipDrive understands, and the company assures them it has a rigorous screening procedure for its drivers. Every CareDriver has at least five years of care-giving experience and has passed a 15-point certification process.

This certification is a stringent vetting process, including fingerprinting, background checks using FBI and Department of Justice database searches, driving record checks, and in-person meetings. Drivers must own or lease a four-door vehicle that is not more than 10 years old that can seat between four and seven passengers, and must pass a yearly 19-point inspection.

In addition, parents can get live text notifications during their child's ride, HopSkipDrive's Safe Ride Support (SRS) is the only U.S.-based team in the industry that monitors every ride in real time. Staffed with former 911 operators, EMTs, childcare specialists, and parents, SRS ensures every rider is delivered safely to their destination.

"As a working mother of two, I understand how challenging it is to balance your children's ever-changing daily schedules with workplace demands," says Joanna McFarland, the company's founder and CEO in a press release that announced the company's Houston launch. "Parents shouldn't have to choose between their careers and their children's education and activities, but that tough choice is very real for countless families. HopSkipDrive wants parents to take comfort in knowing they have a caregiver to rely on to get their kids where they need to go, safely and without worry. We're thrilled to arrive in the Greater Houston Area to answer the transportation needs of many students, families and schools."

And individual schools or school districts can also partner with the ride share service for their student transportation needs.

"HopSkipDrive is not only 60 percent less expensive than our previous car service solution, but far more reliable," says Mike Hush, director of transportation with Littleton Public Schools in Colorado. "We had worked with HopSkipDrive for only a few weeks before we quadrupled the number of students riding with CareDrivers."

The company touts itself as both an asset and a success in cities around the country. With its working-mom founding team, heightened approach to safety, and real-time technology approach, HopSkipDrive could provide a valuable service for Houston's busy working families.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

The promotion of drones helps the city of Houston transition to becoming the energy 2.0 capital of the world, says this expert. Photo courtesy

The state of Texas, as well as the rest of the nation, has been intensely impacted by the effects of climate change as well as aging utility infrastructure. Innovative drone technologies help address the pressing inspection and mapping needs of utilities and other critical infrastructure across the country, primarily bridges and roads, railways, pipelines, and powerplants.

There is a significant need for high-precision inspection services in today's market. Additional work will result if the proposed infrastructure bill passes. The bill has $73 billion earmarked toward modernizing the nation's electricity grid. Drone —or UAS (unmanned aerial systems)— technological advances, including thermal imaging, LiDAR (light detection and ranging), IRR (infrared radiation and remote sensing), and AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) are applied toward determining and predicting trends and are instrumental toward making our country safer.

"The newest advances in drone technology are not so much in the drones themselves, but rather, in the sensors and cameras, such as thermal cameras. Technologies such as LiDAR are now more cost-effective. The newer sensors permit the drones to operate in tighter spaces and cover more acreage in less time, with higher accuracy and fidelity", according to Will Paden, president of Soaring Eagle Technologies, a Houston-based tech-enabled imaging company servicing utility and energy companies.

Paden anticipates growth in the use of the technology for critical infrastructure including utilities, pipelines, power plants, bridges, buildings, railways, and more, for routine and post-storm inspections

"[Soaring Eagle's] ability to harness UAS technology to efficiently retrieve field data across our 8,000+ square mile area is unprecedented. Coupling this data with post-processing methods such as asset digitization unlocked a plethora of opportunities to visualize system resources and further analyze the surrounding terrain and environment," says Paige Richardson, GIS specialist with Navopache Electric Cooperative. "Our engineering and operations departments now have the ability to view 3D substation models, abstract high-resolution digital evaluation models, and apply these newfound resources as they work on future construction projects."

The promotion of drones helps the city of Houston transition to becoming the energy 2.0 capital of the world. The UAS (unmanned aerial systems) technology offers an environmentally cleaner option for routine and post-storm inspections, replacing the use of fossil fuels consumed by helicopters. The use of drones versus traditional inspection systems is significantly safer, more efficient and accurate than traditional alternatives such as scaffolding or bucket trucks. Mapping and inspection work can be done at much lower costs than with manned aircraft operations. These are highly technical flights, where the focus on safety and experience flying both manned and unmanned aircraft, is paramount.

There is much work ahead in high-tech drone technology services, especially for companies vetted by the FAA with high safety standards. According to one study, the overall drone inspection & monitoring market is projected to grow from USD 9.1 billion in 2021 to USD 33.6 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 15.7 percent from 2021 to 2030. North America is estimated to account for the largest share of the drone inspection & monitoring market from 2021 to 2030.

Paden predicts the use of machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI) and data automation will continue to improve over the next 3-5 years, as more data is collected and analyzed and the technology is a applied to "teach it" to detect patterns and anomalies. He anticipates ML/AI will filter out the amount of data the end users will need to view to make decisions saving time and money for the end users.

Learn more at the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit taking place in The Woodlands on October 25 through October 27.

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Alex Danielides is head of business development for Houston-based Iapetus Holdings, a privately held, minority and veteran-owned portfolio of energy and utility services businesses. One of the companies is Soaring Eagle Technologies.

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