Lyft mentioned on Tuesday that it was introducing a characteristic that may assist match feminine drivers with feminine passengers on its ride-hailing app, in an effort to enhance security and encourage extra girls to drive with the corporate.
The characteristic, Women+ Connect, will enable girls and nonbinary riders and drivers to make being connecting with one another for journeys a precedence by toggling on a setting within the app. They might nonetheless be matched with males when no girls or nonbinary individuals have been accessible close by.
The aim, Lyft mentioned, is for ladies to really feel safer utilizing its platform, and to extend the variety of feminine Lyft drivers. About half of Lyft’s passengers however simply 23 % of its drivers are girls, the corporate mentioned.
“Women drivers tell us it’s hard to drive at night,” mentioned Jody Kelman, Lyft’s government vice chairman of consumers. “We need to remove a barrier for women drivers today.”
For years, advocacy teams and regulators have questioned the security of ride-hailing providers like Uber and Lyft that pair strangers with one another, particularly as studies of sexual assaults, murders and lawsuits have piled up.
In 2019, Uber mentioned 9 murders, 58 deadly crashes and greater than 3,000 sexual assaults have been reported throughout Uber rides the earlier yr, a small fraction of all the corporate’s rides however numbers that its executives described as “jarring.”
In a follow-up report final yr, Uber mentioned that sexual assaults had declined considerably however that 3,824 have been nonetheless reported in 2019 and 2020. In 2021, Lyft mentioned there have been greater than 1,800 studies of sexual assault throughout Lyft rides in 2019.
Labor teams say the drivers who work for Uber, Lyft and different gig firms like DoorDash are additionally in danger. At least 50 drivers have been killed on the job between 2017 and 2022, one report discovered, and 31 final yr.
Gig platforms have mentioned they’ve taken steps to enhance security, including simpler methods to contact emergency responders, report audio of rides and guarantee passengers are entering into the fitting automotive.
Still, Ms. Kelman mentioned, there may be “just this sigh of relief” when a lady sees that her driver is one other girl.
Kym Craven, the chief director of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, which suggested Lyft on the brand new characteristic, mentioned she believed it will cut back violence towards girls who used Lyft.
“If you look at the number of sexual assaults in society of women on women, it’s a very small number compared to sexual assaults of men to women,” Ms. Craven mentioned.
Lyft mentioned it will introduce the characteristic in 5 cities with the next proportion of feminine drivers — San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Chicago and Phoenix — to see the way it was used earlier than broadening it throughout the nation.
Uber has the same characteristic, known as Women Rider Preference, that began in Saudi Arabia a number of years in the past and has since expanded to a number of dozen different international locations, although not the United States. It permits feminine drivers to prioritize feminine passengers, although not the opposite approach round.
Mimi Fan, a Lyft driver in San Francisco who has been an unofficial ambassador for the corporate previously, mentioned she would possibly select to activate the Women+ Connect characteristic when she was in a much less acquainted space or driving late at evening.
“That level of comfortability is a little bit higher if it was a female rider versus a male rider at 2 in the morning, going to a really remote area,” Ms. Fan, 43, mentioned.
David Risher, Lyft’s chief government, mentioned he hoped the brand new characteristic would spur extra girls to drive for Lyft. He mentioned he had heard from feminine passengers saying they “would just prefer to be picked up by a woman” and from feminine drivers saying, “If I could drive women, I would drive more.”