Lyft launches feature to let women riders choose women drivers

Rider-Driver match tool responds to demand for greater safety

In response to user demand for increased safety protections, Lyft Inc. is launching a feature that will attempt to prioritize matches between women and non-binary riders and drivers.

Drivers and riders who indicate their gender preference in the app as women or non-binary, or who have a user name that is commonly identifiable as a woman’s name, will be able to opt in to the feature called “Women+ Connect.” The tool will increase the likelihood of matching women and nonbinary riders with similarly gendered drivers.

According to the company, women make up only 23% of Lyft drivers but account for nearly half of its riders, and the new feature aims to attract more female drivers. Because those numbers do not guarantee a preferred match, women riders, for example, may be offered a male driver if no Women+ users are available nearby. Users may opt out of the feature at any time.

Investors and users are pressuring Lyft and rival Uber Technologies Inc. to strengthen safety safeguards. Lyft, based in San Francisco, recorded over 4,000 sexual assault claims between 2017 and 2019, according to the company’s first safety report, which was released in 2021. Since then, the company has faced related lawsuits from drivers and riders, including one alleging that classifying drivers as independent contractors allows the ride-hailing company to avoid liability for sexual assault.

A shareholder group had urged Lyft to publish an annual report on driver safety and to create a process that allows drivers to refuse unsafe rides, though the demand was not gender-specific.

“Women drivers like the flexibility that (Lyft) offers for earnings, but there are times, you know, late at night, or Saturday night when things get a little rowdy, that they think to themselves, gosh, I just don’t always feel comfortable,” said Chief Executive Officer David Risher.

According to Audrey Liu, Lyft’s head of design, the Women+ Connect feature will be rolled out in Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, and Phoenix because those cities have favorable ratios of female drivers to female riders and gender information is available on driver’s licenses in those states. Lyft will decide whether to expand the feature to other areas based on early customer feedback, but Risher hopes to have it available in all major US geographies by the end of the year.

Uber has a similar feature called “Women Rider Preference,” which is not available in the United States and is only available for female drivers to indicate their preference. It debuted in Saudi Arabia in 2019 and has since expanded to 22 other markets, including Canada and Australia.

There are standalone apps and services in the United States and abroad that provide women-only ride-sharing, but none have established a presence comparable to Uber or Lyft.

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