Ever felt uncomfortable riding alone in an Uber with a male driver? There is an app hoping to make sure that never happens again.
Chariot, available for download on April 19, was created by former male Uber driver, Michael Pelletz.
“Chariot was born to ensure safety, comfort and pleasure, as well as giving back to female- focused charities and foundations through our transportation services,” Pelletz said.
Only females and males under the age of 13 can request rides, and every single driver is a woman. Two percent of every fare is donated to women-focused charities fighting to end domestic violence, abuse, cure diseases and empower women. The charities are chosen by customers, and immediately deposited in the charity’s bank account after the rider’s transaction is complete.
“I think it’s a great idea because for me, I can tell the difference between getting into a car with a male driver and then getting into a car with a female driver. I’m so happy when I get a woman because it’s this comfort that I feel and we always have great conversations,” America Silva ’16, International Relations and Political Science major, said. “Some rides have been good, and most men are respectful but for me, I think it would be nicer if I had the option to get a woman after the bar scene is over or if I’m leaving my friend’s place pretty late.”
Uber, Lyft and the new Chariot, are taxi-like services that allows drivers to use their personal cars. Available as an app, riders can see how many drivers are in the area and request a pick up. Using the app’s GPS system, drivers find the pick-up location and the transaction begins. The payment is completely cashless, and fares can be split between friends who also have the app.
Approximately ninety percent of current drivers employed by Uber are male. A former Uber customer service representative searched the Uber database, and discovered that the words “sexual assault” returned 6,160 tickets, and “rape” returned 5,827 tickets. There are countless personal stories on the internet from female drivers who have been physically and/or sexually assaulted and harassed by riders, as well as stories from female riders who have experienced the same from male drivers.
“Unfortunately I did find myself in an uncomfortable situation with a male Uber driver, in which he basically pressured me to sit in the front with him and began asking me questions, which ended in him commenting on physical appearance,” Silva said. “I didn’t say anything and I just hoped the ride would end soon, so I gave him low rating when the transaction ended since Uber never matches you with that driver again. It’s disappointing that women still have to go through those things, and I will most definitely download the app. I’m excited to see what it can bring and the best part is that it donates a portion to charities for women.”
Some feel that the new Chariot service will have some difficulty in breaking into the market that is dominated by Uber with Lyft trailing right behind them. This could mean higher prices and less availability of drivers.
“I feel that from a business perspective, it would take one simple change by Uber to take this company out of business, since all they have to do is give customers the option to choose what gender they want their driver to be,” said Alexandra Lyon ‘16, International Studies and Spanish major at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
This app will also help female drivers feel safe with their passengers. Female drivers will be able to work longer hours and pick up passengers at night; something they have avoided doing out of fear.
“I think it’s a good idea but may also send the wrong message. Instead of creating an app to avoid sexual harassment, more safety measures could be put in place to prevent it from the root,” said Annie McCahery ’16, Political Science and Justice & Peace major at St. Thomas University.
Although the birth of this new app comes as good news, we must ask why an app like this even needs to exist. Why must women have a separate app for themselves because they worry about being subjected to unwanted advances or dangerous situations? Chariot will surely cut down on the number of harassment and assaults that female drivers and passengers experience, but something more must be done on a societal and cultural level to make sure that these events do not transpire at all.
The website is currently taking suggestions for a new name for the app before it is available to officially be downloaded in the App Store.