Chariot for Women

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?

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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.

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Michael Pelletz and Kelly Pelletz

 

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.

 

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.

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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?

6 comments

  1. Obviously I can’t be totally empathetic because I am a male, but I could see some potential with this app. That being said, I’m not totally sold on it. I would be interested to see how wait times for pick ups compare to the larger services such as Uber and Lyft and whether or not the extra time spent waiting is worth the peace of mind. I know that some drivers drive for both Uber and Lyft and this could be very beneficial to females if they want to pick up more hours than they normally work. Next time I get a female Uber driver (like I did this past weekend) I plan on asking them their thoughts.

  2. I think this app is going in the right direction regarding safety, but I’m not sure how successful it will be. I personally do not think I will download it because I’m already overwhelmed with 3 ride sharing apps on my phone. However, I think that Chariot is doing a great job paving the way for a safer ride experience by completing more thorough background checks.

  3. Like Jack said, I can’t truly understand how much need for this service since I am a male, but I can’t see it really gaining traction. It’s total possible market is not just women, it is women who are traveling alone, or at least with other women. The traction is see it gaining is simply because of its pricing model. If it proves to be a cheaper alternative than Uber and its other competitors, then it could be viable, but perhaps only as a means to get Uber to rethink their pricing strategy.

  4. I think that this app could definitely be successful because it seems to fill and significant need in the marketplace. Also, they have a great sounding name lol. Hopefully they are able to get around the legal hurdles posed by these stupid anti-discrimination laws. Although if Uber or Lyft starts to offer a version of their service that does the same thing as Chariot for Women and also starts beefing up their background checks that would probably kill this app. Although considering their rules regarding trans people, I don’t see what prevents a male passenger with criminal intentions from simply saying he identifies as a women and then assaulting the driver.

  5. Nice post. I think this definitely raises the good questions, especially now that’s Uber and co are really implanted in the market and security / safety become more and more of an issue. Chariot being successful is another story. It’s not the first “cab” company trying to target only women: “She Taxi” was launched in NY 3 years ago and one year after it was actually so successful among consumers that it struggled to find drivers: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2756793/App-helps-women-NYC-taxis-driven-women.html I couldn’t find anything about their current financial situation but i think it could definitely work. What’s still unsure however is the reaction of Uber. It wouldn’t cost them much to have a similar feature on their app and they already have a huge brand awareness and a strong network of drivers and consumers worldwide. I honestly like the idea and since i always feel more secure riding with a woman, I think I could use the service – especially at night.

  6. I’m glad you chose to write about this, I saw the app advertised a couple of weeks ago and I was curious about what other people’s thoughts would be. I think the anti-discrimination laws pose a bigger issue than they seem to at first glance. While in this particular scenario they may seem stupid, I would hate to have an exception made that would weaken the institutional integrity of those policies that could protect me in the workplace later on. Great post!

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