In December the New York Times reported that Uber’s valuation was $62.5 billion and yet a new start up is coming into the market to battle the driving giant head on. Yes, we’ve heard this story before with Lyft and Fasten, but this company is doing something different, they’re only driving women and they’re only hiring female drivers.
So what is this new app?
Chariot for Women, is based in Massachusetts and was founded by Michael Pelletz, a former Uber driver. After driving for Uber Pelletz saw an unmet need for women—a way to get home without the fear of getting into a car with a man they do not know. Chariot for Women will only pick up female passengers or males under the age of 13; any man who tries to enter the car will not be allowed. Chariot for Women also noted that they will accept all transgender individuals who identify as female. When drivers and users are connected they will both be sent a matching code. This feature is supposed to increase safety and allows the user the confidence of knowing that they are getting into the car with the right person.
After doing some research into some of the crimes Uber drivers have been accused of it seems that Michael Pelletz is onto something with his added safety features.
- April 1, 2016 “Raleigh, NC Uber Driver Arrested and Charged with Sexual Battery”
- April 2, 2016 “Boston Uber Driver Worked While Awaiting Trail for 2 Rapes”
- February 27, 2016 “A Man Who Posed As An Uber Driver is Accused of Raping a Woman in Hamden, CT”
To address the issue of drivers committing crimes Chariot for Women’s background checks are much more rigorous than those of Lyft and Uber. They also execute their background checks using Safer Places, a company that is known for performing the most in depth background checks. Chariot for Women also requires that all drivers pass Massachusetts’ Criminal Offender Record Information check. They are also planning to fingerprint drivers, which is interesting considering Lyft and Uber have been under heat from the state of Massachusetts for refusing to finger print their drivers.
Besides the safety features, Chariot for Women will also eliminate surge pricing and their model is based off of that of a taxi; there is a base price and then customers are charged per each additional mile.
Would women actually be willing to switch from Uber to Chariot for Women? While our class didn’t seem particularly enthused, the response online seems to be a resounding yes. Kristen Hall-Geisler, a writer for Tech Crunch, asked women what they thought and found that many women feel anxious when they get into the car with a strange man and that they don’t always trust the vetting process used by current services. She said the responses she got ranged from “HELL YES!” to “Honestly, yes, probably. I do sigh in relief when I get into a car with a woman.”
So there seems to be enough consumers for this product, but are there enough drivers? Surprisingly, of the 20,000 Uber drivers in Massachusetts 7,000 are female and across the US 29% of the drivers who joined in the fall of 2015 were women.
Already 1,000 women have signed up for this app, but of course an idea that sounds this great comes with some controversy. According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office the state’s anti-discrimination law prohibits discriminating against a potential employee on the basis of sex, which makes Chariot for Women only hiring women illegal. Pelletz responded by saying,
“We believe that giving women and their loved ones peace of mind is not only a public policy imperative but serves an essential social interest…our service is intended to protect these fundamental liberties, and we look forward to ending the inequality of security that currently afflicts drivers and riders on the basis of gender.”
Chariot for Women is being launched in the Boston area on April 19th and it will be interesting to see how consumers and the state of Massachusetts respond. What do you guys think? Do you think that this app will be successful?