Women-only ride-sharing service DriveHer launches Friday in Toronto
Aisha Addo created DriveHer after an experience with a taxi driver left her uncomfortable
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.
'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.
While Addo commends other ride-sharing services for allowing riders to specifically request female drivers, she says DriveHer goes above and beyond existing options.
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."
The drivers go through the police and criminal background checks that are standard for other ride-sharing services and training specific for its service.
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.
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.
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