Local ridesharing app adds feature to request only female drivers

A local ridesharing company is trying to make female riders feel a little more at ease when using their service, but not everyone is happy about some new changes.

If you use the RideAustin app to get a ride, you can now use the feature female driver mode. This allows riders to be connected to woman drivers. RideAustin said this has been a very popular request, along with a Live ETA, so they have added both.

Debra Crisman has driven for multiple ridesharing companies but said RideAustin is her favorite. "I like the community aspect of it, it's a nonprofit, and I like how they want to be fair across the board, they want to take care of the drivers and the customers as well," she said. Driving for RideAustin she said has noticed a trend, "I have had multiple customer that were females late at night, they may have been drinking and feel more vulnerable and say I am really so thankful that I have a woman driver," she said.

Having the option to choose a female driver is something RideAustin said has been requested by many members of the community. Marisa Goldenberg is the Chief Operating Officer for RideAustin, "They just have that little extra piece of mind that they are looking for and they just feel more comfortable with a female driver," she said.

But the choice to have just a female driver is getting some backlash especially over social media. "Someone posted to the RideAustin Facebook page "Female driver mode? Are you planning on implementing any other discriminatory features?" Goldenberg responded to the question of people thinking it may be discrimination and said "We are a market based platform that's offering a choice and so what we are doing is enabling both sides of the equation to find their ideal match."

The function is not limited to only female riders, but the driver can choose whether or not to accept a request. There are some downsides to the female only option as RideAustin said you may have longer waits as it's will only be offered on luxury and premium cars, and their driver population is heavily men. But that may change in the future. "Right now we are going to start small and certainly so we learn and get the feedback from both sides of the community," Goldenberg said.

For Crisman she said regardless of who's in her car she just has one job to do and the end result is what matters. "You can feel good about your job because you're getting people safe to and from work or the bar traffic that's coming. They're getting, they're being responsible and you're getting them home safely," she said.

The other new feature RideAustin added was the Live ETA, riders can share their trip progress and route with friends or family through a web link even if they don't have the RideAustin App.