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Sheprd bills itself as "Uber meets the School Bus." Founded in Newtown, Mass., in 2017 and limited to that hamlet for now, one needs to add at least one qualifier to Sheprd's description to get the full flavor. Funded in part by Jaguar Land Rover's venture capital arm, InMotion Ventures, Sheprd operates a fleet of Land Rover Discovery LR4s complete with yellow school bus signs, flashing yellow lights, and names like Balto and Clifford. That means the 5- to 18-year-old riders get leather seating, climate control, and smooth rides. Oh, and Kindles.

Parents book rides for their children the day before to one of Shprd's 70-plus area partner institutions, including schools, after-school sports and programs, community centers. The "partner" status means that Sheprd has contacts on site, and a Sheprd driver works out dropoff and pickup instructions beforehand, and won't leave until a child makes it safely into the building or safely on the Land Rover. Sheprd charges a no-haggle $17 per ride, per child.

Some parents might be concerned about putting their child in a fancy car with a stranger. Sheprd drivers are full-time employees, wear uniforms and badges, and must earn the same qualifications as traditional school bus drivers. That means 7D School Pupil Transport Certification from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, CORI/SORI background checks, RMV administered written exam and driving record check, a medical exam. Then they must pass Sheprd's in-house exams of national background check, drug testing, in-person interview, and driving test. Each driver must pass a breathalyzer test and check in by video before taking the wheel.The Land Rovers get inspected before every shift, and as MDOT-approved school pupil transport vehicles, get bi-annual checks conducted by the state.

The service might seem left-field, but it's been around a few years. Shuddle was the first big player in 2014, founded by one of the men behind ride-sharing app Sidecar, after watching parents use Sidecar and Uber for such services. Shuddle closed down in 2016, but HopSkipDrive, also founded in 2014, still runs, and we expect there are more on the way as you read this.

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Land Rover LR4 Information

Land Rover LR4

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