HOUSTON - Houstonians can now take a new ride-sharing service to get around the city that has a big emphasis on safety.
Alto is a ride-sharing service with a new twist. You'll order a ride through an app, but rides have special safety features and offer a membership plan.
Alto offers ride shares but with company-owned luxury passenger SUV's rather than the drivers' cars. And their focus is safety, such as disinfecting the vehicles for COVID-19 between rides.
"Everything from HEPA air filters and we’ve installed plexiglass barriers between the driver and customer compartment. Masks are required for everyone, temperature checks for drivers," said Alto CEO Will Coleman.
While other rideshare services use contract drivers, Alto drivers are full-time employees.
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"We rigorously background check them, fingerprint-based background checks, and do drug screenings," said Coleman.
And their employees are offered benefits and sick leave.
"I feel more valued as an employee that we are offered benefits and we are W-2 employees. We do have the option to get paid time off and things like that," said Alto driver Latonya Thompson.
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Passengers can control the music and air temperature in the car, even set a "Do Not Disturb" request if they don't want to talk. And Alto provides other safety features.
"We have technology installed in the vehicles that allows us to monitor each ride every time. Telemetrics like speed, acceleration, decceleration, g-forces on the vehicle, as well as interior and exterior facing video cameras,' said Coleman.
"The passengers do see the driver’s name in the app and we have the passenger's name in our app so every driver is verified that they’re picking up the right passenger," added Thompson.
Customers can have Alto deliver food, groceries, even gifts through a service called Concierge.
Alto charges a membership fee of $12.95 a month or $99 a year, but offers a 30-day free trial.
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Coleman says rides cost just a little more than Uber or Lyft.
"That means that we’ll be a couple of dollars more than the absolute cheapest option in the market," he said.
Coleman says Alto has hired about 25 of 40 planned drivers for the Houston area so far. It serves a 70-square mile area around the West Loop but will take passengers anywhere in the city, including airports.