A taxi service with exclusively female drivers and passengers seems like the optimal solution to easing potential discomfort on both sides of the ride-sharing interaction. But some experts are saying it might be illegal—because it discriminates against men, the Boston Globe reported.
The idea for the service came when founder Michael Pelletz, a former Uber driver, drove home a barely conscious, incoherent male passenger. The incident made him wonder how a female driver would have felt in his shoes—and gave him the idea for Chariot for Women, a ride-sharing service geared toward women.
But as the company prepares to launch in Boston this April, some civil rights lawyers say the company could run into legal trouble if it refuses to offer rides to men.
“Companies that provide a service need to accept potential customers without discriminating,” attorney Dahlia C. Rudavsky told the Globe.
Pelletz had no comment about potential legal issues with the company’s business model. “We’re getting our ducks in a row. Right now, we’re concentrating on launching,” he said.
However, Chariot for Women isn’t the first company to introduce ride services exclusively for women. In 2014, SheTaxis launched in the New York City area, offering rides from female drivers to female riders. Founder Stella Mateo told the New York Times that she hoped to expand the service to cities like Washington, D.C. and Miami, though it has yet to do so. Another, similar but apparently unrelated woman-to-woman rideshare company called Shetaxi operates in India.
Regardless of the legality of such business models, there’s certainly a desire for a female-focused taxi company—or at least, improved safety measures for female drivers and riders. Regulators around the country are debating background checks for drivers, and a former Uber driver was convicted in Boston of assaulting a 21-year-old female passenger in his vehicle, the Globe reported. There have been multiple instances of sexual harassment of female riders from male Uber drivers as well.