Lyft's ‘Women+ Connect' feature draws mixed reaction from drivers

NBC Universal, Inc.

Lyft is introducing a new safety feature that the company says will prioritize matches between women and non-binary drivers and riders, but the program is drawing mixed reactions from some.

Lyft CEO David Risher says the new ‘Women+ Connect’ program, which is rolling out in Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, will give drivers and riders more choices.

“Women + Connect is all about providing more women and nonbinary people the opportunity to earn money on their terms and giving riders more choice,” he said in a statement. “We hope this gives millions of drivers and riders another reason to choose Lyft.”

The feature can be activated within the Lyft app, and is drawing a variety of reactions.  

“I’m sure Lyft is trying to cater to what passengers want, maybe even cater to some things drivers have asked for,” longtime driver Lori Simmons said.

Simmons says she has experienced what that desire means for drivers, saying that she’s noticed many instances where women will cancel rides until they get a woman to drive them.

She says that the “Woman Plus” feature has positives, but that it leaves something to be desired from a safety perspective.

“Lyft and Uber don’t collect actual information about passengers, and they can’t prove the passenger’s identity,” she said. “I actually fear that this is actually going to make women less safe.”

Simmons is among a group of drivers that have been actively-pursuing additional safety protocols in the wake of several high-profile incidents of violence against rideshare drivers in the city of Chicago and in other parts of the country.

“People doing rideshare have no presumption of safety,” she said. “I mean, the same day we did that press conference about worker safety (earlier this year), one of the workers that was at the press conference got robbed.”

Simmons says the feature is well-intentioned, but that without verification of passenger information it could put women and non-binary drivers and riders in danger.

“Until we have that baseline of security, knowing that they’re doing due diligence on verifying their passengers, then I just don’t see how something like that could help,” she said.

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