AsterRide Plans To Out Uber
After a slew of alleged assaults by drivers for taxi companies and ride-hailing services, firms like AsterRide and Shuddle are looking to increase passenger safety.
When you open the AsterRide app to hail a taxi, you’ll see something a bit different from other ride-hailing apps: a feature called InstaAlert. It’s designed to help passengers notify friends or family that they’re in a taxi and to send an update once the rider arrives at a destination in one piece.
The app is marketing itself as a safe alternative in the ride-hailing industry. Its timing is auspicious — Uber, taxis and other ride-for-hire rivals have made headlines around the world over some of their drivers allegedly engaging in sexual assaults, kidnappings and beatings.
Ride-hailing apps — like Uber, Lyft and Flywheel — let passengers use a smartphone to hail a taxi, black-car service or a personal driver using their own car. The companies behind these apps are aiming to convince passengers that the rides they hail are safe. But it’s a hard sell.
AsterRide and a few others, including Shuddle, are part of a growing reaction to assuage customers’ concerns. They’re beefing up safety features in their apps, such as adding panic buttons and passenger tracking, and they’re also looking to create more-secure services with heightened driver background checks and all-female driver fleets. It’s unclear how many of these features will become industry standards, but they do represent a turning point in intensified attention to safety.
Right now, its service is only in Phoenix, Ariz., but it will be expanding to cities in Florida, Illinois, California and other locations in a few months, the company says. Flywheel has a similar service in several California cities and in Seattle, Wash. Both AsterRide and Flywheel work only with existing taxi and black-car companies.
Another company that has an all-female driver fleet is a San Francisco, Calif.-based ride-hailing app called Shuddle, which focuses on passengers who can’t normally drive themselves around, like children and seniors. To ensure the safety of its customers, the company says, it has stringent driver background screenings and ride monitoring systems.
Shuddle requires that every driver have child care or caregiver experience and a clean background check that includes no misdemeanors. For every ride, the passenger and driver are given passwords so they can verify each other. Also, all rides are live-monitored by Shuddle and there’s a call desk that people can reach out to at any time. Company CEO Nick Allen said this amount of scrutiny makes it safer not only for passengers but for drivers too.
“There’s no magic bullet,” Allen said. “You have to do a number of things well.”