When it comes to using a ride-sharing app, everyone has their preferences — silence, music, whether or not you want the windows down. However, Lyft is taking it one step further, and giving riders a preference on the gender of their driver.
On Tuesday, the ride-sharing app announced the launch of Women+ Connect, which allows women to prioritize matching with women or nonbinary drivers for their trips. The feature can be activated within the settings tab on the app, and is available in San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Jose, with plans to expand to other locations soon. Although the new feature will prioritize being matched with a female or nonbinary rider/driver, a user may still be matched with a male if no users of the desired gender are available in the area.
The program is only available to Lyft users who identify as female or nonbinary.
The company says the new feature was designed to enhance safety and promote female participation in its ride-hailing service.
“Women drivers tell us it’s hard to drive at night,” Jody Kelman, Lyft’s executive vice president of customers, told The New York Times. “We need to remove a barrier for women drivers today.”
Lyft’s female-forward feature comes amid growing awareness of safety concerns related to ride-sharing apps.
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Gig Workers Rising, an activist group fighting for the safety and protection of gig workers, found that 80 app-based workers were killed on the job between 2017 and 2022, and 31 were murdered in 2022 alone.
In 2021, an NBC investigation spoke to 15 gig workers, and all admitted they have “feared for their safety” while on the job.
In the wake of the violence, several gig-based apps have taken measures to buffer safety features for riders and drivers. Since 2021, Uber has rolled out a series of enhanced safety features including stricter verification procedures, freezing accounts of users exhibiting suspicious behavior, the ability to record the ride through the front-facing camera, and the option to capture audio during the journey. In June, Doordash added a new safety feature that allows drivers to share their trips with up to five contacts.
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