A new, female-only ride sharing service called Chariot for Women is set to launch in Boston next week on April 19, 2016. Touted as “the female-only Uber,” Chariot is designed for the transportation of women and children under the age of 13 only, and will employ exclusively women drivers in an attempt to create a safer ride-sharing environment for women and children.
You may wonder about the necessity of this new market given the ubiquity of the overwhelmingly popular app, Uber, which boasts over a million rides a day. Look no farther than Uber’s recent slew of criminal offenses.
Most notable was the case of Uber driver Jason Dalton, who killed six in Kalamazoo, Michigan in March of this year while on the clock. Dalton gave one terrified passenger the ride of his life, letting him out unscathed before he opened fire on a restaurant, a car dealership, and an apartment complex, leaving six people dead and two others in critical condition. While Dalton had no criminal record and no conceivable motive for this harrowing act, he is not the only Uber driver to commit a crime without a record. Uber drivers without criminal records have also been charged with rape, arrested with drunk driving, and involved in a racially-charged assault, amongst other inappropriate or criminal behaviors.
Most disturbing is the fact that Uber has hired drivers with criminal records that have used their positions to commit violent acts against passengers. For example, one driver assaulted a man with a hammer, fracturing his skull. Additionally, there are drivers that have previously been convicted of theft, burglary, kidnapping, and murder, as well as sex offenders.
In light of these offenses, the efficacy of Uber’s background checks has come under fire. Uber has recently been criticized for misleading customers about the safety precautions taken before employing their drivers. While Uber claims to do extensive background checks and markets itself as the “safest ride on the road,” it recently settled two class-action lawsuits that claimed the contrary. In fact, Uber only checks criminal records for the past seven years. Additionally, the database from which they pull their criminal record information in California is lacking over 30,000 entries. Uber contends that its “industry-leading background checks” are more than sufficient, however, the numerous incidents that have occurred suggest otherwise.
These criminal acts were not solely directed at women, and speak more to the deficiencies in Uber’s safety process in general. They do, however, reveal a need for a safer service. There is undeniable cause for this niche market to consider women when evaluating the safety of the transportation service. Just nineteen percent of Uber drivers in the United States are women. The number one reason for this, according to Forbes magazine, is “perception of safety, or lack thereof”. Michael Pelley, the founder of Chariot for Women, said that he spoke to thousands of women over the years that said they would feel unsafe driving at night. Uber claims to have reported less than 170 sexual assault claims between December 2012 and August 2015, but Buzzfeed published a serious of screenshots and reports that indicate the number may be much higher.
TheVerge.com: Uber doxxed one of its drivers
As a woman, I can’t think of a single female friend who wouldn’t feel safer using a transportation service of women drivers provided for women passengers. Chariot’s business model advertises more in-depth background checks, including finger printing as well as a safe word that is required to be provided by the passenger. Additionally, Chariot will offer $25 per hour for female drivers, which it claims is the highest compensation in the industry. Note: Uber has received a lot of flack from drivers recently for lowering its prices).
Although Chariot sounds like the panacea for ride sharing, there is just one little hiccup – the inherent gender discrimination in its hiring practice/model. The potential for legal action regarding gender-discrimination is likely. With that said, Chariot founder Michael Pelletz and his wife, Kelly, welcome the challenge and are confident that their business will prevail. Even with over 1,000 women already signed up as drivers, according to USA Today, it remains to be seen whether Chariot will thrive in this new transportation segment or flounder and ultimately fail, be it due to legality issues, the monopoly that is Uber, or another, unforeseen reason.
Written by: Michelle Schmidt
Michelle Schmidt is a senior Communications major and Political Science minor from Washington, D.C. and is a vital member of the Media Relations team.