Ridehailing StartUp Alto Makes News in Dallas

William PeatmanNews

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Alto, a Dallas area startup ridehailing business is making news in the city, with WFAA Channel 8 and CBS Channel 11 airing stories about the company’s innovative new service that focuses on safety and other features that appeal to women.

The WFAA interview features Alto Chief Customer Officer Alex Halberdier as she takes a reporter on a ride using the new service.

Peer-to-peer ridehailing businesses have come under fire over passenger safety concerns. Some 120 cases of assault have been filed against Uber and Lyft drivers. Another problem, though not directly the fault of the ridehailing businesses, is that imposter drivers have picked-up and in some cases have assaulted unwitting passengers.

“The number one reason that those non-users told us that they don’t [use ridehailing services] is that they are worried about their personal safety,” said Will Coleman, the CEO of Alto, who was interviewed by CBS 11.

Alto’s safety measures including using professional drivers and a private fleet of vehicles. Drivers go through multiple background checks, in-person interviews and three days of supervised training. All drivers are W-2 employees accountable to the company.

By contrast, peer-to-peer ridehailing giants Uber and Lyft perform background checks, but don’t require in-person interviews or training to become a driver, and drivers are independent contractors.

All Alto vehicles are owned by the company and marked with its logo, so there is no mistaking which car is from Alto. The fleet is entirely comprised of brand new, five-star crash rated SUVs that are maintained daily. Subscribers can specify the music they would like in the vehicle, whether they want privacy or conversation, and more. Once inside their car, passengers see their pictures on the driver’s phone, which is mounted and clearly visible.

“We pride ourselves in being recognizable and identifiable so that you always know what car you’re getting into,” Halbardier told WFAA.

Alto does charge a monthly fee of $12 dollars, and the price of rides ends being slightly more than an Uber X, but less than an Uber Black Car. Also, Alto does not vary prices based on demand or time of day.  “The reason we do that is because we believe in consistency and transparency,” Halbardier told WFAA. “We never surge our prices. So it’s important to us to have a membership so that we can serve them in the best way possible.”

Every vehicle is constantly tracked on an interactive dashboard at the company’s office. CBS Channel 11 called it “air traffic control for the roads.” The dashboard and the software to orchestrate the services is provided by Bestmile.

Is the $12 per month worth the extra service and safety? At the end of the video news story, when the camera goes back to the WFAA studio, meteorologist Pete Delkus mentions that he and his wife use Alto regularly. “l love them,” he told his colleagues on camera. “The cars are clean.”

“You don’t mind paying that extra twelve bucks per month” anchor Chris Lawrence asks? “No,” Delkus answers, “because I know what I’m getting.” Just the kind of safety and consistency Alto wants customers to count on.

“We believe this (safety) is the thing that is going to disrupt this market and allow us to take on players that are significantly larger and more well-established,” Coleman said to CBS 11.