Safety Spotlight: Meet our Safe Ride Support Team

Close your eyes and imagine commercial air travel without air traffic controllers. Would it make you feel more safe or less safe to know that human experience and judgment had been removed from the equation that keeps planes separated from each other in the air and on the ground? Would your answer change if you knew that even in the era of aviation automation, air traffic controllers still apply judgment and even courage to save lives in moments when the underlying technology isn’t enough?

Safe Ride Support is HopSkipDrive’s “ground traffic control,” the living, breathing human beings that amplify our technology by applying experience and judgment to make a safe solution even safer. Here’s a look inside.

Who is the Safe Ride Support team?

Our Safe Ride Support (SRS) team dates back to the very beginning of HopSkipDrive, when we undertook the audacious task of designing the first youth transportation platform. Back then we called ourselves Ride Watch, but our purpose has never changed. Basically, we’re responsible for ensuring every HopSkipDrive trip is delivered safely and reliably.

As the front line of our safety program, we are also responsible for calling out opportunities to improve our processes and our technology to ensure that we’re getting safer all the time. The recipe really comes together when you pair trained human observation over four and a half years with millions of miles of data to create an increasingly intelligent system. For example, our system learns which school pickup lines are routinely congested and feeds information back to local CareDrivers about the safest and best way to arrive at that school. To imagine that innovation, it took a human with enough focus and time to perceive patterns.

SRS is staffed with specialists that include former 911 operators, EMTs, childcare specialists and parents. We deliver on our mission by monitoring every single trip booked on our platform, interpreting alerts, assessing dynamic risk, and communicating with CareDrivers and organizers to respond, adapt, and resolve small problems before they become big ones.

What does SRS do every day?

SRS monitors every HopSkipDrive trip in real time with on-device technology, including GPS, gyroscopes and accelerometers. Our SRS specialists know precisely who’s in transit, where they are, and what public road and traffic conditions might impact a safe, on-time arrival.

In SRS, a specialist is assigned to track each trip across six different stages and compare it to its planned itinerary as it moves from stage to stage. If a trip veers from plan in any of these stages (e.g., a driver has a late ETA to pick up a rider), then the assigned specialist updates the trip organizer and re-routes the trip as needed. Often, SRS reaches out proactively to CareDrivers, organizers or riders to keep each trip on course and on schedule.

SRS also answers inbound calls, backstopping every step of a trip’s progress. On any given day, SRS will reschedule last-minute or emergency trip changes, assist lost CareDrivers with turn-by-turn instructions, and serve as the first point of contact for any issue that may arise.

When is SRS active?

SRS specialists come online an hour before the first trip begins (typically about 4 a.m. EST for early-morning east coast trips) and SRS doesn’t shut down for the day until the final ride completes, which can be as late as midnight PST.

Effectively, ride safety is a 24-hour operation.

Sounds like a stressful job. How do you manage that aspect?

Well, first, we take the job very seriously, but not ourselves. We laugh a lot, and that’s healthy.

But the most important thing is transparency and sharing, which makes our specialists feel connected and supported. We structure time for us to teach and train each other. No one is assigned to watch a ride until they complete 40 hours of training, shadow a senior SRS specialist, and demonstrate that they are prepared to do the job.

And we’re never “done training.” That’s important. In addition to being instructive for specialists, it means they are reminded constantly that no matter what happens out on the road, we have a plan to address it.

Andrew Graves is the Head of Safe Ride Support at HopSkipDrive. Watch this space for more features on our U.S.-based SRS team.