A new women-only ride-sharing service, Chariot for Women, is set to launch April 19 in Boston, Massachusetts. Surprisingly, its founder is not a former female passenger who felt unsafe in an Uber—as many of us have—but Michael Pelletz, an Uber driver who had a revelation when he felt threatened by a passenger.
“What if I was a woman?” Pelletz, wrote on the company’s website. In fact, worries about safety are why his wife Kelly—who is now Chariot for Women’s president—decided not to drive for Uber, he said.
Scores of women have reported rapes and assaults by Uber drivers, while, anecdotally, countless others have felt threatened. In March, Uber’s safety issues were thrown into the spotlight when Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton allegedly shot and killed six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Dalton continued to pick up Uber passengers in between his shooting rampages. Just yesterday, Uber agreed to pay up to $25 million to settle with prosecutors for misleading passengers about the thoroughness of its background checks.
Pelletz told TechCrunch his ride-sharing service will be safer overall thanks to more stringent background checks and additional steps to ensure riders correctly match with their drivers. He also said the company will not use surge pricing and will donate two percent of each fare to charity.
That all sounds great. But ”whether it’s legal or not is a different question,” Joseph L. Sulman, an employment law specialist, told the Boston Globe. According to civil rights lawyers, Chariots for Women’s female-only policies could put it squarely in the crosshairs of gender discrimination lawsuits, which would be difficult to win.
Adding that the service would also pick up children under 13 regardless of gender, as well as transwomen, Pelletz said he would welcome the legal challenge.
“We want to show there’s inequality in safety in our industry,” he told TechCrunch. “We hope to go to the US Supreme Court to say that if there’s safety involved, there’s nothing wrong with providing a service for women.”