Uber to let Australian teens ride solo, in some states

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

Uber is launching a service for unaccompanied riders aged between 13 and 17.
Uber is launching a service for unaccompanied riders aged between 13 and 17.

Australians as young as 13 years old will be able to book journeys in ride-share vehicles as part of a service designed to appeal to busy parents. 

Tech giant Uber will launch the service for unaccompanied riders aged between 13 and 17 years in Australia on Tuesday after testing the offering in the US, Canada and Latin America. 

But Uber for Teens will only be available in three Australian states and territories at launch due to working with children requirements, before the service is made available across other states later in 2024. 

Uber’s service for teens will launch in the ACT, Tasmania and South Australia from Tuesday, with underage riders able to set up accounts under a family profile and order trips under their parents’ supervision. 

Uber Australia and New Zealand mobility operations director Emma Foley said a survey of 1041 parents found more than half had struggled to drive their teens to activities due to work commitments, and one in five had to ask teens to miss out on events due to clashes.

“We know there are so many parents out there who are juggling work and who are juggling multiple kids trying to get to after-school activities,” she said.

“Whether it’s two parents with three kids or a single parent with multiple kids, trying to get your kids to Saturday morning sports across different parts of town can be a big challenge.”

Ms Foley told AAP the service, designed in partnership with US organisation Safe Kids Worldwide, would feature safeguards including GPS tracking of rides for parents, notification of route changes, and the ability for a parent or guardian to phone a driver.

Teens would verify their driver using a PIN, and only experienced and highly rated Uber drivers who had valid Working with Children checks or Working With Vulnerable People registrations would qualify, Ms Foley said.

The checks were required in the three launch states and territories, she said, and drivers in other states would need to complete similar checks before a national rollout.

“This product won’t be for everyone because parents feel comfortable with the maturity of their kids at different ages so it will be a choice for individual families,” she said.

Sydney mother-of-four Gabriella Vieira, who regularly drives her children between netball, cheerleading and dance classes, said she and her husband would appreciate the option to help meet everyone’s schedule. 

Ms Vieira said her eldest child, 13-year-old Lacey, was already proficient at organising lifts and would be mature enough to hire a ride.

“It was a service I could have used a couple of weeks ago when I had a sticky situation and couldn’t get to her,” she said.

“It would definitely take the pressure off if my husband and I were stuck at work, especially during the school holidays.”

However, a Monash University study published in 2022 found most Australian parents (62 per cent) would not allow their children to use a ride-share vehicle unaccompanied due to safety concerns.