Boston-based app Safr is a ride sharing app exclusively for women. As its name denotes, the app aims to provide a safer ride for women passengers and drivers. In an interview with Curbed, Joanna Flynn, the company's marketing manager, alluded to the "current environment" that makes it difficult for women to participate in the ride sharing industry. For example, a driver for Uber, the most popular ride sharing app in the market, recently sexually assaulted a female passenger in California. The San Francisco-based company also settled a lawsuit filed by two female passengers in Los Angeles last year. It has instituted a number of safety features, such as background checks for drivers, and formed Incident Response Teams, to make its app safer for riding. (See also: The Rise Of Niche Ride-Hailing Services).
But that may not be enough. "Safety concerns create roadblocks, and make it harder for women to ride and drive at night,” Flynn said.
As of March, the Safr app had an all-female driver list and safety features baked into it. For example, an SOS button enables passengers to call emergency contacts. Passengers can also make trusted driver lists using the app. According to an earlier interview, the app already had 100 drivers on its rolls and applications from another 1,000 drivers. Because it serves a niche audience, Safr’s rides are also more expensive as compared to other services in the market. On average, they cost $1 more than other services. (See also: Is Uber The Future Of The Taxi Industry?)
But the apps founders might face legal problems down the road. This is because the app might be toeing the line as far as state and federal anti-discrimination laws are concerned. “If you replace the word ‘women’ with ‘white’ or ‘black,’ it reads very differently,” a civil rights lawyer told the Boston Globe.The company’s PR head told the publication that they were working with legal teams “to see if that’s something we can fit into out model.”
Similar questions were raised about the operations of another similar New York City-based startup SheTaxis, which provided rides for women.
California-based ride sharing service See Jane Go has a different take on the issue. The service, which is aimed at women, allows men to ride, if they are accompanied by a woman. It has also established collaborations with other ride sharing services to ensure that a male passenger, who is by himself, gets a ride when he hails a See Jane Go car. "(The company's initiatives) are done to not only provide a specific environment for our female passengers but for our female drivers as well.," explains Sandra Sellani, chief marketing officer at the company, adding that they also have male employees in their corporate office.