Uber launches service for teens in Kansas City

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 10:46 PM CDT
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PARKVILLE, Mo. (KCTV) – This week, Kansas City joins 13 other metropolitan areas where Uber is offering a family plan that would allow teens to take an Uber on their own.

The first sentence in their promotional materials explains why they think the demand is there: “Between school, practice, the mall, and friends, your teen has places they need to be—and so do you.”

KCTV5 went to a high school baseball game in Parkville to get a feel for what parents think of the idea.

“I think it would come in handy, especially for single parents, for parents that are both working opposite shifts or something,” said Lara Young, who has a 10th grader at Northland Christian Schools. “I think it could really be a good thing.”

Still, it’s not something she plans to sign up for.

“I don’t trust people,” she said when asked why. “I don’t trust the world.”

One parent said he’d let his son do it but not his daughter.

Another, whose kids are now 18 and older, joked that she wouldn’t have done it for her first child, but might have for her second child because she got more relaxed by then.

Uber teen accounts are for ages 13-17. A parent or guardian with an Uber account must initiate the process by inviting their teen to create an account. The teen then clicks a link to create a new teen account. When a teen on a family account requests a ride, the parent or guardian gets notified and can track the route in real time. They also have a direct line to the driver.

Tracking and other safety features, like a password to verify the driver, are optional for adult riders but required for teens.

Uber added that only certain drivers will be authorized to drive teens requesting rides.

“We are requiring that drivers have hundreds of trips on their history, and that have only consistent positive feedback from riders on those hundreds of trips,” explained Uber Product Manager Mariana Esteves.

The driver background checks include motor vehicle and criminal offenses checked at the local, state and federal level. Uber said the company re-screens drivers annually and continuously monitors for new offenses.

Teens who have signed up can bring teen guests, and drivers aren’t required to get parent permission for the guests.

Back at the ball game, Logan Cook -- who just had his birthday -- said that, regardless, he wouldn’t be comfortable riding in an Uber without a known adult.

“I don’t feel like getting kidnapped,” Cook said. “I don’t know the person driving.”

Uber said it spent a year developing the product, began piloting teen accounts in Canada in 2022, then added several U.S. cities earlier this year.

The app does not ask for parent permission to approve each ride; it’s a blanket permission. Esteves said the company chose not to offer that as an option, because interviews with parents during the pilot launch showed little interest in that.

“A lot of them were too busy to do that kind of management,” Esteves explained. “Their teens were already folks who had a lot of independence. So, they said, ‘If it needs to go through me, I’m not getting the advantage of delegating.’”

Parents can revoke access. She added that Uber is working on an option to set spending limits.

An FAQ about Uber teen accounts can be found by clicking here.