A new Boston-area startup hopes to be a new on-demand ride service that will only offer rides to women, trans women, and children of any gender under 13.
Chariot for Women, which was founded by a husband-and-wife team from Charlton, Massachusetts, is set to launch nationwide on April 19. Its pricing will be much more similar to traditional taxi fares, with a base charge and a per mile rate—and with no surge pricing.
The company says that it is focusing on safety and will only employ female drivers, who will have background checks run by Safer Places. All prospective drivers must also pass Massachusetts’ Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI), according to TechCrunch.
By contrast, Uber has been sued multiple times by female passengers who said they were sexually assaulted by their male drivers.
On Chariot for Women’s website, Michael Pelletz, himself a former Uber driver, described the company’s origin story:
It happened in one terrifying night, after a year of picking up and dropping off over 850 passengers, Michael had his first unsafe ride. A 20-something man stumbled into Michael’s backseat, incoherently babbling behind his rolled-back eyes. Something about grandmother’s house—it was clear he had no idea where, or perhaps even who, he was. He would pass out, wake up, squirm violently and reach repeatedly into his pocket before passing out again. With few options left, a horrified Michael spotted a nearby police officer, pulled over the car and ran out for help.
One thought kept coming up in his head: "What if I was a woman?" he thought, "How would a woman handle that situation, especially when I was so nervous myself?" Then the words his wife said a year ago, that she wanted to drive but was too afraid, repeated in his thoughts.
While some critics have raised the question of sex discrimination as a possible legal barrier to Chariot for Women’s expansion, the firm’s lawyer, Chase Liu, said this would not be an issue.
"Courts have long held that hiring on the basis of sex is permissible where sex is a bona fide occupational qualification in the context of serving privacy interests," he told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. "At stake here is more than just privacy—safety and security are also at issue. As such, we are confident that our hiring of women drivers constitutes a bona fide occupational qualification, where doing so is necessary to uphold the privacy, safety and security of our drives and riders."
Chariot for Women is also in the process of asking its prospective customers to change the company’s name.