Lyft aims to match women and nonbinary riders and drivers with each other more often

Lyft has announced an initiative that aims to bolster safety for riders and drivers who identify as women or nonbinary. Women+ Connect is a feature that gives women and nonbinary drivers the option to match with women and nonbinary riders more often. Lyft says this is an opt-in feature that’s preference-based. If a driver activates Women+ Connect but there are no women or nonbinary people who are looking for a ride close by, they’ll still be matched with a male rider and vice versa.

The feature will initially be available in Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. Lyft plans to enable it in more cities in the near future. When it’s available in their area, women and nonbinary riders and drivers will see a “count me in” prompt. If they agree to this, it’s more likely that they’ll be matched with a woman or nonbinary person.

Improving safety is a major goal for Lyft with this effort. The company is also hoping it will encourage more women and nonbinary folks to sign up as drivers. Lyft says that, according to a recent survey, nearly half of riders are women, but they make up 23 percent of drivers on the platform. “Women drivers tell us it’s hard to drive at night,” Jody Kelman, Lyft’s executive vice president of customers, told The New York Times. “We need to remove a barrier for women drivers today.”

Ridesharing platforms such as Lyft and Uber have added more safety features to their apps over the years amid reports of sexual assaults and other violent encounters. They have made it easier for riders and drivers to contact support staff and 911, keep loved ones up to date with their location and record audio from the ride. Lyft consulted with experts such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives as it built Women+ Connect.

It is worth noting that Lyft makes it a cinch for riders and drivers to change their gender identity in the app with a few taps. You’ll see a driver or rider’s preferred pronouns in the app, but not their gender identity.

Access to Women+ Connect is based on the gender that users identify with in the Lyft app. Lyft says the default gender identity it uses for drivers is based on the license it has on file, while riders always self-identify their gender. However, any user can change their gender identity in the app at any time. Balancing the ability for users to easily express their gender accurately (particularly for those who are transitioning) while ensuring this feature works as intended is a tricky needle to thread and may cause some issues, but at least Lyft is considering that factor while implementing Women+ Connect.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at 

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