For anyone, especially women, safety is never guaranteed. That applies to anytime you get into a car with a stranger, even if it’s a vetted cab, Uber, or Lyft driver—or someone pretending to be.
A man posing as an Uber driver allegedly raped a female passenger in Koreatown earlier this month; he was arraigned on Tuesday. Company-wide, Uber has received five claims of rape and “fewer than” 170 sexual assault allegations from December 2012 to August 2015, according to numbers obtained by Buzzfeed.
With Uber completing its 1 billionth ride in December, the chances of encountering a dangerous driver via rideshare apps remain slim. Still, some women are rattled and would prefer an alternative. A Massachusetts company called Chariot for Women—launching soon in the Bay State, according to the L.A. Times—intends to offer just that. Its fleet of female drivers will only pick up women and children, and the drivers must say a “safe word” before starting the trip.
A former (male) Uber driver started the company with his wife, Kelly Pelletz, in response to the sexual assault stories involving rideshare drivers. Pelletz and husband Michael say they’re prepared for lawsuits from angry male drivers, especially since a previous female-led rideshare—SheRides—was hit with numerous threats of litigation and ultimately settled one case.
New York-based SheRides is now relaunching as female-focused SheHails—geared toward women, but allowing male drivers and passengers.
Legal experts told the Times that policies like that of Chariot for Women, while well-intentioned, will likely run afoul of the law because of the Civil Rights Act and its ban on gender-based hiring. The apps may benefit from not hiring its drivers full-time, though—independent contractors can likely operate outside the parameters of the Civil Rights Act.