Now, Chariot for Women, a women-only alternative to ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, is set to launch nationwide on April 14. Conceived by a former Uber driver and his wife, Chariot for Women will not allow men as riders or drivers. Boston man Michael Pelletz conceived of the idea after a terrifying experience with an incoherent passenger. It made him think of how his wife, Kelly, had told him she wanted to drive, too, but was too frightened.
Safety is the primary concern of founders Kelly and Mike Pelletz. In addition to the Uber-style driver and vehicle identification methods, real time tracking, and background checks, Chariot for Women provides extra safeguards for users. Each day, each driver answers a random security question at the beginning of her shift to confirm her identity. For each ride request, a safe word is sent to both the driver's and passenger's phones to make sure they're getting into the right car or ferrying the intended passenger. "As needed," the company website promises, "more [safety] features will be added."
"As needed," the company website promises, "more [safety] features will be added."
In addition to providing a safer, more comfortable ride service for women and their children, Chariot for Women will give two percent of every fare to charities focused on improving the lives of women. Customers will be able to select which charities their fares support from a monthly rotating list of ten organizations.
Women-only services like Chariot for Women have proven to be controversial for a variety of reasons, including legal ones. "There's nothing wrong with advertising particularly to a female customer base," Dahlia C. Rudavsky, of the employee's rights firm Messing, Rudavsky & Weliky tells the Boston Globe. "But if a company goes further and refuses to pick up a man, I think they'd potentially run into legal trouble." And, while "This company sounds great," according to employment law specialist Joseph L. Sulman, "Whether it's legal or not is a different question."
We could argue ad nauseam about how women-only services aren't going to fix the bigger problems facing society when it comes to gender and violence. Some people see them as an admission that we've given up on fighting a culture that supports or ignores violence against women, placing more of an expectation on women to avoid victimization rather than upon others not to harass or perpetrate violence. Some men will certainly try to adopt the role of victims in the situation, claiming women-only services to be a form of illegal segregation, and, depending on the circumstances, the law may agree with them (though it's likely more men would prefer their wives, daughters, mothers, and friends have the opportunity to travel safely and comfortably on their own terms). Until society embraces a widespread culture of respect and safety, women will continue to make their own choices about with whom and how they choose to travel, taking their safety into their own hands, and helping others to do the same.