Ben Lee is one of my favorite young entrepreneurs. He’s tenacious without being aggressive, smart as hell, and he balances building up a company he can be proud of while keeping an eye on growth and a healthy bottom line.

Plus, dude wears those Vibrams, the shoes with the individual toes, without a hint of irony.

Lee is the founder of Autopilot, a Charlotte-based startup he launched about a year ago. Autopilot is an app that allows people in need of a ride to not only hire a car but also, if needed, hire a driver that comes to them and drives their car home.

Lee and I caught up at a happy hour he hosted at Crank Arm Brewing at the tail end of a week he spent in Raleigh laying the groundwork to bring Autopilot to the Triangle. While he was here, he crashed at the Thinkhouse, worked out of HQ Raleigh, and had discussions with entrepreneurs and potential drivers and other employees.

The couch-surfing, co-working, and spending a week living in a new market, that’s just Lee. I met him in Raleigh over a year ago at one of Jason Caplain’s entrepreneur breakfasts, an event for which he left Charlotte at 4 a.m. to make. He’s been to more than one ExitEvent Startup Social in the Triangle, and when he showed up at the Social we had in Charlotte, he was also wearing the Vibrams.

You can see how someone like that might come up with a startup to get him where he needs to be. And when I think of all the times I’ve had to go fetch my car on a Sunday morning after a night out, I can’t help but think that the provide-a-driver option is a great idea.

I also can’t help but think it’s just a take on Uber, which Lee gets a lot. So I had him explain the difference to me again like I was 5

A Community Builder.

“I’m actually glad there’s more than one player in the space,” he laughed. Then he explained that Autopilot is more about community, it’s about the both the destination and the journey, a concept that appeals to Millennials, and that the ride sharing is pretty much the backbone for the driver-only option.

When you call on Autopilot, as Lee puts it, you’re calling on a friend. You get a picture and rating of the driver, obviously, but he’s working on also providing some interesting trivia about the driver.

“I had a driver once that had visited something like 30 countries in the last year,” he said. “We talked about that and it blew my mind. I learned a lot on that trip and we instantly bonded over our shared love for travel.”

While Millennials are a target, and the concept of sharing is something Lee is infusing into Autopilot to attract them, seniors are another, and Lee is leaning on the concept of increased mobility and independence to appeal to them.

“My uncle and my grandfather fight all the time over whether or not he should drive,” Lee says. It’s that kind of independence and mobility that seniors don’t want to lose, but providing Autopilot as an option might, if anything, at least cushion the blow.

First-Hand Experience 

When Lee talks about Autopilot, he uses words like discovery, connection, reinventing, and disrupting. He knows the importance of scaling horizontally, but there’s a reason he took over a year to expand out of Charlotte. He wanted to do it right. And he sees that as a competitive advantage too.

“All these ride-sharing startups,” Lee says, “None of those founders have ever driven before.” Lee has driven before, in a similar startup he put together before Autopilot that didn’t quite work out. And he drives now. In fact, he spent his New Year’s Eve on duty, in conjunction with a marketing program he took on with Miller Lite, who sponsored $100,000 in rides over the holidays in Charlotte as part of their #CelebrateSafe campaign.

The focus on community-based ride sharing, as it were, might also be the component that keeps Autopilot out of the current Uber fire with less-than-professional driver experiences, everything from customers being shouted at to incidents of violence. Lee is aware, and he’s been on top of it.

Autopilot carefully screens their drivers, according to Lee, going beyond the driving record and criminal checks to make sure that the driver is someone every rider can be comfortable with. It’s not just a liability issue, it’s a business issue. If a rider has a bad experience, at the very least its damaging to the company, and Lee is prepared to scale more slowly outward in order to make sure he’s offering the best service where he is now.

“The first, most important thing to me is the safety of the riders and drivers,” he says. “I can replace a car, I can’t replace a human life.”

Editor’s note: Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. He is VP of Product at Automated Insights and the founder of startup network and news resource ExitEvent. Follow him at Twiitter or read him at his website.