Women-only ride-sharing service DriveHer launches Friday in Toronto

DriveHer, a ride-sharing service only for women, launches Friday in Toronto.

Aisha Addo created DriveHer after an experience with a taxi driver left her uncomfortable

DriveHer creator Aisha Addo says she created the service after an experience with a taxi driver left her uncomfortable. (CBC)

It's a story many women can identify with. Aisha Addo says she was in a taxi from a friend's house to her home in Mississauga when her cab driver started asking her uncomfortable questions.

"He was asking me if I lived alone, and for me that was a bit triggering, because I happened to," she said. "Then he started asking if I had a boyfriend, and then [there] just started to be some really weird sexual innuendos. I became a bit guarded."

Addo says she called a friend who she asked to stay on the phone with her for the rest of the ride. While she made it home safe, the experience left her anxious to get into taxis.

"It sort of got me thinking later on, 'What about the people whose phones are off, or they don't really have anyone to call?'" Addo added.

That taxi ride, along with nights as a designated driver for her friends, inspired her to create DriveHer, a ride-sharing service only for women. It launches Friday in Toronto.
DriveHer launches Friday in Toronto. (CBC)

'Creating an equitable space'

Addo says it has been a long process getting the company off the ground, but news of women getting assaulted and harassed shows a need for her service.

"Funny enough, the moment we sort of brought out the concept or idea of DriveHer, I think within that week there was five or six incidents of women that have been assaulted or women that have experienced some sort of violence," she said. 

While Addo commends other ride-sharing services for allowing riders to specifically request female drivers, she says DriveHer goes above and beyond existing options.

"There's so many ride-sharing services, let's not get that wrong, and that's amazing, but then there was never really any option for women and people that identify as women," Addo said. "What DriveHer is, is providing an option and creating an equitable space where women and people who identify as women have that option."
DriveHer creates an 'equitable space,' founder Aisha Addo says. (CBC)

To create that "equitable space," the app doesn't allow male passengers or drivers. Even before its official launch, some on Facebook have criticized DriveHer as being "sexist" and "dividing"; however, Addo doesn't view her service as discriminatory. 

"People need to calm down and look at this from not only a safety perspective and an empowering perspective but then also an empathetic perspective," she said of possible critics. "Instead of complaining about it, have conversations about it. Be an ally. Stand in solidarity with the women in your lives and really try to understand where we're coming from."

Emphasizing safety

The drivers go through the police and criminal background checks that are standard for other ride-sharing services and training specific for its service.

"We are doing the whole 360 in terms of checking and then they also get training in terms of training on anger suppression and training on gender," Addo said. "We do ensure that our drivers are well equipped to get on the road before they actually do so."

Uber spokesperson Jean-Christophe de le Rue told CBC Toronto that it welcomes the competition from DriveHer and that Uber already emphasizes safety for both its drivers and users. 

Uber also notes that its drivers go through a thorough screening process, that it has built in safety features into its app and has a Safety Advisory Board that covers everything from sexual assault and road safety. 

'Economic empowerment'

Addo says her service also provides "economic empowerment for women" in addition to providing an alternative to traditional ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Instaryde.

DriverHer driver Jordyn Samuels also drives for Uber and Lyft and says the service gives her another opportunity to drive.

"I wanted to drive for DriveHer because one of the most common comments that I get is, "I'm so happy to see a female driver," she said. "I can also put my driving skills to good use at all times on the DriveHer app." 
Uber and Lyft driver Jordyn Samuels says DriveHer gives her another opportunity to drive. (Anna Cianni/CBC)

There are more than 100 other drivers like Samuels for DriveHer's launch day Friday and the company hopes to expand here in Toronto and in other markets.

"We do want to expand this across Canada within the coming months. We want to provide a service for women," she said. "Literally the entire premise of this is to serve women. As long as all women are using it, we're cool." 

With files from Makda Ghebreslassie and Mathieu Simard