Sheprd, a new 'school bus' service has been started in Newton, Massachusetts. The initiative Sheprd, which describes itself as 'Uber meets the School Bus', will have Land Rover Discovery SUVs to ferry children to and from schools. The service is partially funded by Jaguar Land Rover's venture capital arm, InMotion Ventures, and includes a fleet of Land Rover Discovery LR4s equipped with yellow school bus signs, flashing yellow lights, and names like Balto and Clifford. So, 5- to 18-year-old school children will now get to travel in a smooth ride complete with leather seating and climate control.
Rides in the Sheprd's Land Rover Discoverys can be booked by parents a day before to one of the 70-plus area partner institutions, including schools, after-school sports, and programmes, community centres. Sheprd contacts the 'partners' and works out drop off and pickup instructions beforehand.
The Sheprd drivers will not leave before the child has safely made into to the building or in the Land Rover. The service has a fixed charge of $17 (Rs 1083) per ride, per child.
Sheprd considers parents' concerns for putting their child with a driver in a fancy car. Sheprd drivers are all full-time employees, wear uniforms and badges, and are required to earn these with qualifications as a traditional school bus drivers. Apart from government certifications, the drivers also have to pass Sheprd's in-house exams of national background check, drug testing, in-person interview, and driving test.
Not just the drivers, even the Land Rovers are inspected before every shift, and as MDOT-approved school pupil transport vehicles, get bi-annual checks conducted by the state.
While the service sounds very niche, but it has been around for some years now. Shuddle was the first one to introduce this model in 2014. Shuddle was founded by one of the men behind the ride-sharing app Sidecar. Shuddle was shut in 2016, but a firm called HopSkipDrive which was also founded in 2014 still runs.