Columns, Opinion

RENNER: Chariot for Women is undermining positives of ride-sharing

A former Uber driver and his wife are launching a car service in Boston exclusively for females.

As an alternative to services like Uber and Lyft, Chariot for Women “was born to ensure safety, comfort and pleasure as well as giving back to female-focused charities and foundations through our transportation services,” according to the startup’s website. It would only hire female drivers and only pick up female riders. Riders under 13 years of age, however, would be picked up regardless of gender.

Michael and Kelly Pelletz are going into this business together in the hopes of saving women from the potentially unsafe situations that can occur with other ride-sharing services.

Michael first got the idea while working a late night for Uber. A male passenger who was “incoherent” and “barely conscious” made him wonder how a female driver would have felt in his shoes. He would pick up vulnerable, intoxicated, college-aged women in the wee hours of night, and cringe at the thought of his two daughters stumbling into a strange man’s car in the same manner, he recounted on the Chariot for Women’s website.

The website Who’s Driving You?, an initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association, has tracked the pitfalls of Uber and Lyft from as far back as 2013. The site states that “Uber’s process for onboarding drivers is dangerously negligent … [and] doesn’t even bother to meet with drivers in person before allowing them to ferry passengers.” It details incidents that fall under the categories of deaths, assaults, sexual assaults, kidnappings, felons, imposters and DUIs — the extent of which are extremely alarming.

However, the solution to this safety issue is not to launch a limited, discriminatory alternative. Rather, they should make what is already in existence the best it can be, considering it is currently being used by more than 8 million people worldwide. The question of Uber’s legitimacy has been an issue since the app went live.

Both the selling point and the drawback of the app is the laid-back, spontaneous ease for ride users and providers. Because drivers use their own cars, they are able to fly under the radar and dodge rules that apply to professional drivers, leaving Uber less accountable. If your driver, who is not registered under any federal or state body, were to acquire a misdemeanor, the driver would still be able to get behind the wheel. Recently, Uber had to fork over at least $10 million for its insufficient background checks, and that’s not even including the case in which one of its drivers allegedly killed six people.

Although Chariot for Women has noble intentions, chances are it won’t even be able to make it off the ground. Massachusetts has strict laws against gender discrimination in the work force that would most likely make it impossible for the company to refuse service or employment on the grounds of gender. Dahlia Rudavsky, a partner in the Boston firm of Messing, Rudavsky and Weliky, which specializes in labor law, told The Boston Globe that although “there’s nothing wrong with advertising particularly to a female customer base … if a company goes further and refuses to pick up a man, I think they’d potentially run into legal trouble.”

The Pelletz’s have made significant ground in bringing to light the issues that ride-sharing services have, until now, evaded. Perhaps positive change can come from this awareness, or at least put pressure on Uber to step up and amend its ways. It would be a shame to channel this potential for change into a separate service that will inevitably fail and put this momentum at a screeching halt.


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