Modern-day ride-hailing technology will soon be used to improve the New York City school bus system. Fast Company reported today that transportation company Via — which offers on-demand ride-sharing in select cities — will license its technology to the New York City Department of Education. Via’s algorithm, which pools passengers from nearby areas and creates an efficient route for drivers to deliver them to their destination, will now do the same for school buses. Parents and students will also be able to access real-time GPS tracking and updates.
Via is currently working on an app that will be exclusively used by NYC public schools. The app distributes mobile tickets to riders, which they can scan in order to access the bus. A spokesperson from Via said rollout of the app will be phased out during the coming school year.
Many “Uber for kids” ride-hailing companies such as Kango and Sheprd have cropped up in recent years, giving parents a much-needed option for transporting children to school and other activities. Most are still restricted to major metropolitan areas, and for lower-income parents, their cost likely makes them inaccessible. A partnership between a free public school bus system and a ride-hailing app, on the other hand, would be the first of its kind.
New York City’s school bus system has faced criticism in recent years for its delays and corruption. Buses were often late or would not show up at all. Back in January, the NYC Council passed legislation that mandated the use of GPS tracking on school bus routes.
Given that New York City is the largest school district in the nation, its partnership with Via should be a valuable case study for the future. If the technology is a success, it’s likely it will spread to other cities. Given how ubiquitous GPS tracking has become for everything from packages to taxis, it makes sense that it will spread to school buses.