‘Chariot for Women’ provides a safe space

Columnist Olivia Hunt.

Columnist Olivia Hunt.

Privatized ride-sharing companies have drastically increased in recent years due to the high demand for convenient transportation. Services like Uber and Lyft are among the most popular, catering toward any need, whether it be young teenagers trying to get around with their friends or adults who just need a ride to work that day.

Although these companies are extremely successful at the moment, one factor most users notice is a majority of the drivers are male. On the rare occasionone does get a female driver, it’s almost guaranteed it’s during the day. The concept of inviting strangers into your own personal vehicle is frightening to say the least. From the perspective of a woman, taking this risk is an even bigger danger to our safety.

Just last weekend, a man in Los Angeles posing as an Uber driver was arrested for kidnapping and raping a woman, choking her unconscious in the backseat of his SUV. Additionally, a few months ago, an Uber driver went on a shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan leaving six dead. No one likes to imagine these tragedies happen often, but sadly they do. Uber has drawn criticism for its handling of sexual assault and rape cases as well as its loose criteria for background checks.

Women cautiously step into an Uber every day and face the fear that something of this caliber could happen to them. Speaking from personal experience, I have encountered solo Uber rides that have left me clutching my phone and sending my location to my friends just in case. Circumstances like these tend to frustrate me because I don’t enjoy feeling unsafe in the presence of a male stranger, but unfortunately as a woman in the society that we have created, it’sseen as careless if you aren’t cautious when alone with a male.

Michael Pelletz—a former Uber driver in the Boston area—recognizedthe safety of women, both the driver and passenger alike, was in jeopardy and took advantage of the gap in the market. Today, his new ride-sharing company, “Chariot For Women,” will launch in all 50 states. Pelletz claims over 9,000 potential drivers have already signed up for the service. After having a sketchy experience one night driving Uber, paired with his wife’s concerns about being an Uber driver after dark, Pelletz created an all-women driving agency that only allows female passengers and children under the age of 13.

The app is built for safety. Every time the driver starts her day, she has to answer a random security question which changes daily to ensure her identity. When the passenger requests a ride, a safe word pops up on the driver and passenger’s phone. If the driver says the correct word, the ride may begin. If the driver doesn’t have the same safe word, the passenger then knows immediately not to get into that car, and will then look for the correct vehicle. The passenger will also see a picture of their driver, car make and license plate number every time they are picked up by a Chariot for Women driver.

Another positive component of Chariot For Women is 2 percent of daily proceeds will be donated to a women based charity. Every month, there will be a list of 10 local and national charities, chosen by customers through the app. While the passenger is in the car, a pop-up will appear with these 10 charities and they can immediately choose where their 2 percent goes. As soon as they hit the button, the charity will immediately get the money deposited in their bank accounts. This means more money will go to foundations trying to cure diseases, stop violence and abuse, help empower women and more.

This type of innovative thinking in the interest of women’s safety is a small but paramount advancement towards protecting the interest of females everywhere.