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New features enhance safety for female, nonbinary Lyft drivers, passengers

New features enhance safety for Chicago female, nonbinary rideshare drivers, passengers
New features enhance safety for Chicago female, nonbinary rideshare drivers, passengers 03:17

CHICAGO (CBS) – It's no secret that people behind the wheel of rideshares are subject to some serious crimes, including carjackings, beatings, and sexual assaults.

CBS 2 has reported extensively on driver safety concerns over the years. This weekend, drivers will be putting some new Lyft initiatives to the test.

CBS 2's Lauren Victory had a deeper look at some recently implemented safety solutions.

Downtown Chicago is usually bustling on a Friday evening. For many, a night on the town will end with an Uber or Lyft ride home.

At least some drivers picking up passengers now will feel a little safer.

Teddi Burgess has worked as a rideshare driver for six years, logged almost 20,000 trips, and had one unforgettably terrifying moment with a male passenger.

"He threatened me," Burgess recalled. "He told me I had to keep driving. He was very irate."

That experience helps explain why Burgess is more at ease when someone with a purse or pair of heels hops in.

"Anytime I look at my app and I see that I'm picking up a female, you know, there's a little bit of a sigh of relief that goes through my mind," she said.

More comfort is coming.

Burgess just opted into a new feature in her Lyft app called "Women+ Connect." It puts a priority on pairing Burgess, a woman, with female or non-binary passengers rather than a man. Drivers or riders can select the Woman+ Connect option.

"It makes me feel safer, so I think it's wonderful," Burgess said.

Lyft President Kristin Sverchek told CBS 2 that feedback inspired the safety initiative.

"This really all started with our users," Sverchek said.

So did Lyft's desire to add more female drivers to the fleet. Only 23% of drivers are women.

Burgess said women are shying away because of crime in Chicago.

"I know female drivers that have left doing this job because of the carjackings so yeah, it's an ongoing issue," she said.

Victory: "From a crime and safety standpoint, what can you tell me that you're seeing right now?"

Sverchek: "So, we are constantly looking at the numbers."

Lyft's president wouldn't share specifics, but it's likely some sort of data are driving yet another new safety feature meant for emergencies: a live, in-app video feed.

"That would allow drivers or riders to actually share video of what's happening in the car at any given moment," Sverchek said.

The feature would be a livestream with a security professional monitoring the situation. The real-time video comes from a driver's phone. No dashboard camera would be needed.

"Anything we can do to make the job safer for the person who is just out here trying to make a living, the better," Burgess said.

Lyft's competitor Uber already offers female driver-passenger pairings and recently launched a feature called "Record My Ride." It's not a livestream of what's going on inside a rideshare. Instead, it's recording all trips that an Uber driver can submit for review.

Chicago Uber drivers are only able to capture audio. Video function isn't available in the city yet.

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