AARP Eye Center
Older passengers who might order a Lyft or Uber sometimes need more than a simple ride to their next appointment. They need the kind of door-through-door service that Silicon Valley start-up Onward promises.
Rather than take you from one curb to another, specially trained Onward companion drivers will enter a person’s home, help them put on shoes or coats, and carry belongings ranging from walkers or wheelchairs to a gurney. Among other requirements, they must pass background checks and know CPR.
At a destination, the driver may walk a client through grocery store aisles or into a health care facility. On the way home, a driver might stop at a pharmacy or pick up other essentials before safely bringing that and the passenger back in the house.
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“Transportation is the No. 1 responsibility for caregivers in the United States,” says Kim Petty, Onward’s co-founder and chief executive. Onward beat four other start-ups at an invitation-only pitch competition Jan. 6 featuring actor and comedian Ken Jeong.
AARP’s AgeTech Collaborative hosted the contest at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. AARP sponsors several pitch events throughout the year to identify innovative products and services to make aging easier. Winners and start-ups selected to pitch have the opportunity to join an eight-week program with AgeTech Collaborative experts to help them grow.
AARP estimates that the 50-plus market contributes nearly 46 percent of the U.S. economic output, rising to more than half by 2050. More than 56 cents of every dollar in consumer spending comes from this age group.
Cost. Onward charges riders a flat fee of $45 plus $2.50 a mile in the San Francisco Bay area where it now operates. A one hour minimum plus any tolls and parking are required. Additional time is prorated. Tipping is permitted. Onward has partners such as UCSF Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that can help qualifying riders with fees.
Growth. CEO Petty is looking to expand to other markets, first in California later this year then to other states with high populations of potential older riders.
While it caters to older folks, anyone can book a car through Onward. But unlike traditional ride-share services, Onward is not on demand. Rides generally must be scheduled at least 24 hours ahead and can be booked online, by calling a concierge team or via an iOS or Android app.
What’s more, Onward’s website states it is “not in the business or going fast or hurrying riders. It is not the population we service, and we’ve built our pricing to reflect this stance.”