Women are no stranger to the potential risks of using ride-sharing apps. Most women have at the very least one horror story of a ride that made them feel unsafe and fear for the worst. If you don’t know anyone who has had such an experience (and you do, they just haven’t told you) all you need to do is look online to see the thousands and thousands of things that deal with when all they want to do is request a ride home. It’s not just passengers— female drivers for popular ride-sharing apps routinely report being sexually harassed or even assaulted.
Uber reported that it received over 6,000 reports of sexual assault in the United States between 2017 and 2018, and after promising a similar report, Lyft produced records of more than 4,000 instances of sexual assault between 2017 and 2019 in its subsequent investigation. It’s no wonder that some people now are looking into alternatives to the two largest ridesharing apps on the market.
Safr, a women empowerment-focused rideshare app which started with a test run in Boston, is coming to Louisiana with the mission to create safer environments for some of the most vulnerable riders.
Safr’s differentiating factors include a more personal, hands-on driver training and recruitment process, as well as a slew of in-app safety features.
The experience is different from ever setting foot in a Safr ride. Both riders and drivers can edit their profile settings to mark a preference for which gender of driver they feel most comfortable riding with—men, women, or both— to match riders and drivers for the best possible experience. A color-matching system must then be used to verify the ride before it starts. This helps to ensure passengers get into the correct vehicle, and the ride will not run until the colors have been accurately matched. There is also an SOS button discreetly available in the app, with the option to call 911 or send a text to a pre-assigned contact. Both options automatically transmit the current location of the ride.
Safr’s process begins before drivers are even approved. Those who send in their application to be a Safr driver must undergo a full and thorough background check before they can hit the road. This includes a comprehensive review of any potential criminal or motor vehicle accident history, or history of driving under the influence— steps that other rideshares, whose driver signup process takes a matter of minutes, don’t go through. Then, potential divers are personally vetted by a member of Safr’s staff, with an interview and a test ride before they get approved.
Safr also hopes to work towards women’s empowerment by removing roadblocks and providing economic opportunities for female drivers. While anyone who passes Safr’s reportedly extra-thorough background check and personal interviews can be a Safr driver, the company specifically recruits and cultivates an environment to encourage women to sign up. The idea is that women who wouldn’t drive otherwise due to fears of harassment will be encouraged to sign up because of the company ethos and the driver-focused safety features Safr offers. Meanwhile, non-female drivers are likely to be supportive and attracted to Safr because of similar values. Apparently, the theory is sound, and most of their fleet appears to be female. Compare that to Uber, which reported that only 27 percent of the drivers working for the company were women, and Lyft, which reports a 21 percent figure.
Safr now launching in New Orleans, Louisiana, and surrounding regions. However, the focus of the launch at this time will be the deployment of Safr Care, Safr’s system for non-emergency medical transportation.
Safr's non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) service was created to improve the healthcare transportation market while simultaneously supporting women’s empowerment. These types of rides are for patients, including older adults facing mobility issues, those struggling with chronic disease or requiring ongoing routine treatment, or those with no reliable source of transportation. With Safr Care they can request a ride to get to their medical appointments while maintaining their independence and dignity.
Safr Care's expansion in Louisiana will lead to Safr’s full launch with rideshare and delivery services soon to come online in the region.