ARNPRIOR -- A ride-sharing pilot project will be available to residents in Renfrew County beginning in the winter of 2021.

It’s a partnership between the county and Ottawa-based company RideShark to bring an on-demand transit solution to the rural county. Renfrew County is the province’s largest geographic county, and does not contain a public transportation service.

"So this is for people in rural, less urban areas that don’t have access to a good transit service," RideShark CEO Sharon Lewinson tells CTV News Ottawa. "So it will enable them to use community members to help them access (things like) appointments."

The service will work similar to that of Uber and Lyft in the way rides can be booked through an app, but it is not a ride-hailing service, RideShark says. Instead, volunteers and community members provide a carpooling service where the cost of the trip is split, based on CAA mileage rates.

Lewinson says this will be a major benefit to seniors living in the area.

"Quality of life is dependent on mobility; so access to mobility options, access to appointments, medical treatments. If there’s no transit then there has to be another service, and this is the service we’re hoping will make the community more accessible to all."

Lewinson adds that they want to make the project easy to use for seniors as well, and will allow access to community hubs around the county.

"Not only can they use the platform directly," explains Lewinson. "But partner organizations and stakeholders like senior centres, retirement homes, or health centres can act as an administrator on behalf of the person to book them a ride."

The pilot project is also receiving almost $1.6-million in funding from the Ontario government and industry contributions. The project is launching in the winter, as part of its goal to help develop autonomous vehicles to handle winterized roads and difficult weather conditions.

"We want to see when you’re in a rural area, what happens for example if the driveway wasn’t plowed," says Lewinson, who is working with Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network on the research and development.

"How do we get the vehicle to the person who needs assistance; maybe crawling through an unplowed driveway."

When the project launches, Lewinson assures users that there will be real people driving behind the wheel.