Sidecar, the app-based transportation company that operates in six cities in the U.S., now lets riders choose the sex of their driver. In an email the company sent out to current users and published as a blogpost titled "7 Ways To #RideSafe This Season With Sidecar," the company touts the feature as a safety measure intended to protect women.
"Be Choosy: If you prefer to ride in a newer car or with a woman at the wheel, go ahead and choose!" the blogpost reads.
Riders have had the ability to customize rides since February when Sidecar announced a new round of funding led by Union Square Ventures and introduced what the company calls "marketplace."
"Passengers are presented a list of drivers and can choose the ride they want based on car, price and ETA," Sidecar spokeswoman Margaret Ryan told BuzzFeed News. "When we tested Marketplace we heard anecdotally from our drivers that are women that they saw an increase in female passengers. We've since heard from some of our female passengers that they prefer to ride with a woman on their first trip or late at night."
The refresher course on safety practices comes in the weeks following the rape of a female passenger by an Uber driver in India. Though the driver has since been arrested and charged, concerns over the safety of riding with the major app-based car service companies have been reignited."
The feature is certainly a plus for female riders but has the potential of leaving female drivers vulnerable. Any rider — male or female — can choose which driver they want and, as female Uber driver Ayda Valilar told BuzzFeed News earlier this year, women drivers can often be subject to harassment.
But Ryan said that she isn't aware of any complaints or concerns about harassment since Sidecar launched Marketplace.
"In fact, price is the number one decision when choosing our ride," Ryan told BuzzFeed News.
"Sidecar allows drivers to set their own price and riders choose their ride based on what matters to them most. For example, they might pay more for a ride with a short ETA or be willing to wait for a ride that is further away if it costs less. Or they might have surf board or a bike and wish to choose a driver with a large vehicle. We've heard from some of our riders that they felt more comfortable having the ability to choose who they ride with and that is why we included it in our list of seven ways to ride safe."