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HopSkipDrive CEO Joanna McFarland. (HopSkipDrive Photo)

A service that connects parents with vetted drivers to ferry their kids around rolled out in Seattle this week. HopSkipDrive is a Los Angeles startup that provides an Uber-like transportation model with additional safety features for children. The service launched Monday in Seattle as students headed back to school.

Parents use the HopSkipDrive app to book a ride for children over the age of six. Rides must be scheduled at least eight hours in advance. HopSkipDrive says its drivers go through a 15-point vetting process that includes scans of federal databases and an in-person meeting. Kids and drivers receive a code word to ensure it’s the right car and parents are able to monitor the ride using the app.

The startup was founded by a group of moms struggling to get their kids to school and their various activities in 2014. Joanna McFarland, a mother of two, co-founded the company and serves as CEO.

“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,” she said in a statement.

Uber and Lyft aren’t direct competitors with HopSkipDrive because they do not allow drivers to pick up riders under 18. But Zum, a rival service, is launching in Seattle this month.

In 2017, HopSkipDrive announced a $7.4 million investment round, bringing the total funding to $21.5 million, according to PitchBook data. Investors include Seattle-based Maveron, FirstMark Capital, Skyview Capital, Upfront Ventures, Student Transportation Inc., and others.

HopSkipDrive says its drivers earn an average of $32 per hour.

Some school administrators have partnered with HopSkipDrive to provide transportation for kids with specialized needs. Both HopSkipDrive and Zum are partnering with schools in the Seattle region.

“We are deeply passionate about removing mobility-related barriers for kids, and we help transportation directors make it easy and cost-effective to get students to school safely and on time,” said McFarland in a statement. “When kids don’t have to worry about how they’re getting to school, they show up calm and ready to learn. They thrive.”

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