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Charlotte-based company connects riders with personal drivers

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Autopilot is an app that connects rider and drivers in minutes, offering black car service at a cab's price. Autopilot is an app that connects rider and drivers in minutes, offering black car service at a cab's price.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A Charlotte company is offering an alternative to other app-based services that match people in need of a ride with drivers.

Entrepreneur Ben Lee says he came up with the idea for Autopilot following a night of dinner and drinks with friends that left him in need of a designated driver.

"I came up with the idea: What if you could push a button and see someone come to you in real time?" Lee explained.

Autopilot is an app that connects rider and drivers in minutes, offering black car service at a cab's price. The user simply clicks a button in the app to request a ride, and a few minutes later the driver arrives.

"When you call a taxi, you have to Google to find the right number," explained Beck Kasimov, who is a driver with Autopilot.

Beck said the service is not only convenient for those looking for a ride, it is also safer for drivers because Autopilot requires a cashless transaction. The credit card payment for the ride and tip is handled through the app.

"I come to the location, pick up the customer, take them to their destination," Kasimov said. "No money is exchanged."

With background checks required for drivers, Kasimov said the service is a win-win for the driver and rider.

"You know what kind of driver you are going to get because it shows you the name of the driver and what kind of rating the driver has," he said.

One of the most popular features, Lee said, is the app's ride sharing feature, which allows riders to call the private, black car service or a car pool-type service.

"An everyday driver who is already going from home [or] to work can now make some extra money to cover gas or save some money for a family vacation," Lee said. "They can open their app … to see if there is a fellow commuter looking to go from A to B."

He said, "Our motto to drivers is, 'You drive everyday anyway, why not start getting paid for it?'"

After arriving at their destination, the customer has the opportunity to rate the driver and ride on a scale of "Amazing" to "Horrible." Lee explained the company looks into any rating that is below "Amazing."

"At Autopilot, we're really about safety and convenience, and delivering that wherever people live, work and play," Lee said.

Like the private car service, the car pool drivers are also screened and rated, Lee said.

Lee launched the service in Charlotte a year ago, and in February Autopilot had a soft launch in Raleigh.

Last month, ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft both also launched in Raleigh. Like Autopilot, the services connect independent drivers in their personal vehicles with people who need a ride.

Because the services are not considered taxi companies, they do not have to follow the City of Raleigh's regulations on taxis.

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