TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 15

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Americans are often oblivious to the role of farming in their lives. To get the smart policies needed to feed our nation and the world, we must reconnect people to agriculture.

By Ian Pigott in the Des Moines Register

2. Even employer-paid health insurance can worsen poverty and increase inequality.

By David Blumenthal in Commonwealth Fund

3. Is “feminist marketing” an oxymoron?

By Chandra Johnson in the Deseret News

4. Helsinki has a plan cities everywhere could try: Combine the sharing economy, transit and mobile technology to eliminate cars.

By Randy Rieland in Smithsonian

5. America’s best bet in Africa is a strong relationship with Nigeria.

By Daniel Donovan in Foreign Policy Blogs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Companies

Taxi Drivers Protest Uber and Lyft, Stop DC Traffic

App Car Service Startups Continue To Irk Traditional Cab Companies And Regulators
A Lyft car drives along Powell Street on June 12, 2014 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Taxi drivers are protesting rules that would allow Uber and Lyft to permanently operate in the nation's capital

A taxi driver protest against app-based car share companies UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar tied up downtown traffic in the nation’s capital Wednesday.

Local news reports showed lines of drivers, sitting parked in their cabs along Pennsylvania Avenue in northwest Washington on Wednesday between Freedom Plaza and the district’s City Hall. For about two hours on Wednesday, traffic along the route snarled as police officers issued tickets to some drivers for blocking flow of traffic, according to WJLA.

The protest was held in response to new regulations for the app-based companies introduced in the DC Council that would allow companies like Uber and Lyft to permanently operate in the city as long as they conduct background checks for all drivers, provide minimum $1 million insurance coverage, and never accept street hails, among other rules. The legislation moved out of committee on Tuesday and will face a final vote later this month.

Uber has praised the legislation, but the Washington D.C. Taxi Operators Association, which is affiliated with Teamsters and organized the protest, says the rules give companies like Uber and Lyft a “competitive advantage.” Thousands of cab drivers showed up to protest Wednesday, according to a release from organizers.

This was the second time taxi drivers have protested in Washington this year, with a June protest snarling traffic for hours in downtown DC. Similar protests have been staged in Boston and San Francisco in the taxi industry’s ongoing battle with app-based services who they say are impeding their business while facing much less scrutiny and regulation.

TIME Crime

Uber Driver Arrested in San Francisco for Hammer Attack

The driver has been arrested and suspended

A San Francisco Uber driver was arrested Friday for attacking a passenger with a hammer, police said, injuring him so badly he may lose an eye.

Roberto Chicas and two friends hailed an Uber ride Tuesday in San Francisco and disputed with the driver over the route they were taking, the Bay Area ABC affiliate reports. After telling the passengers to get out, the driver suddenly began attacking them, police say.

Chicas is now recovering from a serious head wound. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said 26-year-old Patrick Karajua pleaded not guilty to the hammer attack.

The charges come just days after the Gascon and the Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey warned Uber, Lyft and Sidecar that they are operating illegally and could face civil penalties. The attorneys say the ride share companies mislead customers by claiming their background checks of drivers screen out anyone who has committed driving violations and other criminal offenses.

Uber responded to the alleged hammer attack by emphasizing its policy of suspending a driver charged with serious crimes. “Safety is Uber’s #1 priority. We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency and care,” said Uber. “It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver’s account following any serious allegations, which we have done.”

[ABC]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Because of America’s unique relationship with Liberia, we have an obligation to help fight the Ebola outbreak there.

By James Ciment in Slate

2. Medical research often doesn’t account for different ethnicities, and underrepresented groups suffer.

By Estaban G. Burchard in Nature

3. One way to head off sexual violence in professional sports: start with high school coaches.

By Libby Nelson in Vox

4. Beyond the sharing economy: Is “reputation” the next important currency?

By Heather Schlegel on CNN

5. Powerful protests over climate change target corporations – and new leadership is needed to restore faith in capitalism.

By Judith Samuelson in the Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY taxis

Uber Has Pretty Much Destroyed Regular Taxis in San Francisco

Uber driver in San Francisco
Mark Avery/ZUMA Wire—Alamy

We've all suspected Uber would wreck the traditional taxi industry. Now, at least in San Francisco, there's proof.

Techno-optimist disrupters and angry cab drivers alike have predicted that Uber, the leading app-powered car service, would eventually put traditional yellow cabs out of business. Now, a new report shows that that Uber is hitting metered cabs hard, at least in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Examiner reports on testimony by Kate Toran, director of taxis for San Francisco’s transportation authority, who revealed that average monthly trips per city taxi have plummeted from 1,424 in 2012 to 504 in July of this year—a drop of almost 65%. Uber added San Francisco taxi service in October of 2012.

In addition to cutting drivers’ revenues, Toran also suggested that people who use wheelchairs could be hurt by the shift to app-based services. Her report shows wheelchair pickups have dropped from 1,378 per month in March of 2013 to 768 in July—a decrease of over 50%.

“The ramp taxi program is just a vulnerable program in the taxi program overall because it costs more to operate, maintain and it costs more in gas for the drivers,” said Toran. “It takes more time to do wheelchair securement, so it’s kind of the first to go.” According to the Examiner, transportation network companies, unlike city cabs, are not required to be wheelchair accessible.

San Francisco isn’t the only place Uber is cutting into the traditional taxi business. Cab drivers from Chicago to Berlin have protested against Uber’s entrance, claiming in many cases that ridesharing companies are competing unfairly because they are not subject to the same regulations as official taxis.

In August, Illinois governor Pat Quinn vetoed a bill that would require companies like Uber submit their drivers to background checks, abide by new insurance requirements, and limit “surge-pricing” where fares are dynamically raised during high-temand hours. A recent Harvard Business Review article blamed excessive regulations of city cabs as a primary reason why yellow cabs have been unable to compete with new transportation services. For example, metered cabs can’t dynamically change prices as demand changes. Uber can. And it has frequently dropped its own fares below those of city cabs knowing its regulated competition will be unable to respond. It has also taken advantage of special rush hour pricing.

San Francisco regulators have responded to competition from Uber-like services by relaxing some standards in an attempt to keep yellow cab drivers from jumping ship. Driver application fees have been waived for the year, and other fees have been reduced. They are also considering eliminating a $500 charge for a wheelchair-friendly cab license.

While Uber’s entrance into the market has been bad for taxi companies’ business, it may have improved their service. Tuesday’s report noted 80% of the city’s taxi fleet now uses the FlyWheel hailing app, which allows customers to summon and pay for taxis using their phones.

MONEY tech stocks

5 Winners and 5 Losers of the Alibaba IPO

Alibaba founder Jack Ma
Alibaba founder Jack Ma gives a thumbs-up as he arrives to speak to investors at an initial public offering roadshow in Singapore September 16, 2014. Edgar Su—Reuters

Both lists include some surprising players who will be directly or indirectly affected by the e-commerce giant's record stock offering.

Depending on how things go on Friday, when Alibaba starts trading on the New York Stock Exchange, there could be tens of thousands of winners from what’s expected to be a record initial public offering.

But as with all things in life, there are winners and then there are winners. Here’s a rundown of who those really big winners are apt to be, along with some potential losers.

The Winners

1) Jack Ma, Alibaba founder and CEO

This former school teacher turned Internet mogul doesn’t need Alibaba’s IPO to go gangbusters. He is already the richest man in China, worth approximately $22 billion, according to Bloomberg. For Ma, who personally owns around 9% of Alibaba shares, any boost in the stock’s estimated value post-IPO will simply be icing on the cake.

Ma’s real victory comes in the retention of power. Because the Chinese government forbids foreign ownership of key strategic assets in China, this IPO is structured in an unconventional way. As MONEY points out in “No, Alibaba is Not the Next Facebook (and 4 Other Myths About this Mega-IPO Debunked,” investors who buy the stock don’t technically get to own the company. Ma and a group of Chinese citizens who founded and help run Alibaba are still the technical owners of the company’s assets.

Rather, investors simply get the rights to the profits that are sent to a holding company known as a “variable interest entity,” which is based in the Cayman Islands.

The upshot is, Ma gets to raise $25 billion in capital by going public, yet he is not beholden to his shareholders in the same way other publicly traded companies are. In other words, Ma gets his money without having to give up any power. That’s like winning the lotto.

2) Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Softbank

Son, who runs the Japanese tech and telecom giant Softbank, is now the richest man in Japan, worth nearly $20 billion, according to Forbes. For that, he can thank one of the greatest investment decisions in modern history.

In 2000, at the height of the tech bubble, Son invested $20 million in a Chinese startup and encouraged its founder, Jack Ma, to hang on during tough times.

That proved to be beyond smart. Son’s $20 million turned into around $55 billion in less than a decade and a half, which is another reason why Son is sometimes referred to as the “Bill Gates of Japan.” This is sweet redemption for an Internet visionary who reportedly lost upwards of $70 billion in wealth when the tech bubble burst in 2000.

3) Softbank and Sprint

Much has been written about how Yahoo owns around one fifth of Alibaba’s shares. Well, Masayoshi Son’s Softbank — the Japanese tech, telecom and Internet giant — owns more than a third of the e-commerce giant.

For Softbank, owning Alibaba will help it attract global investors who want an indirect — and more diversified — way to gain exposure to the Chinese company. In addition to its large stake in Alibaba, Softbank is a major player in the Japanese mobile phone market; has its hands in hundreds of tech and media companies throughout the world; and owns a 70% stake in Sprint.

Now Softbank will have a pile of cash to make strategic acquisitions to strengthen Sprint, which for years has lagged its larger competitors Verizon and AT&T. At the very least, Softbank can invest some if its Alibaba winnings in Sprint by improving its infrastructure.

4) Snapchat

After its IPO, Alibaba will have $25 billion burning a hole in its pocket. Already, Wall Street and Silicon Valley are drawing up a list of potential takeover and investment targets.

High up on that list is Snapchat. Yes, talks between the two companies — which would have had Alibaba take a minority stake in the messaging app business — ended more than a month ago.

But that may have been because of the noise surrounding Alibaba’s IPO, and the fact that Snapchat raised around $20 million in funding through another means: via the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Forbes reports, though, that this represents just 3% to 5% of the company, whose overall value is said to be around $10 billion. So there’s plenty of opportunity for Alibaba to get a piece of the pie.

Alibaba isn’t the only deep-pocketed suitor reportedly interested in Snapchat. The company has already turned down an offer from Facebook, and there are rumors that Microsoft, which has developed a similar app to Snapchat called Windup, is also interested in buying the firm. Surely, having Alibaba circling this pond will only drive Snapchat’s price higher.

5) ShopRunner

Alibaba has made a lot of small investments in U.S. companies, ranging from the app search engine Quixey to the messaging service Tango to the transportation app Lyft. But its $200 million investment in the online shopping site ShopRunner is the most intriguing because of how Alibaba may leverage it down the road.

Alibaba now owns 39% of the online service, which is aiming its sights on Amazon.com. Think of ShopRunner as a virtual mall, in which small storefronts of well-known retailers like Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, and Eastern Mountain Sports can be found. As with Amazon Prime, ShopRunner charges a flat fee (in this case, $79 annually) in exchange for free 2-day shipping on purchases made throughout the year. Quartz points out that the model is similar to Alibaba’s Tmall, where the company gets a small cut for every item sold on top of the annual subscription fee.

While ShopRunner pales in comparison to Amazon right now, that could change if Alibaba decides to throw its full weight behind this service and uses this franchise as its American version of Tmall.

The Losers:

1) Yahoo

It sure seems odd to describe a company that owns around a fifth of one of the most valuable businesses in the world — a stake that’s worth about $35 billion — a loser.

But here’s the deal: Yahoo, by agreement, must sell around 27% of its stake in Alibaba at the IPO. And as it sells its stake, Yahoo shares will begin to lose the one thing that has wooed investors so far this year: that Alibaba mystique.

Soon after, pressure will grow on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to use the proceeds of the Alibaba investment wisely, for future acquisitions. But Yahoo doesn’t exactly have a great track record with companies purchased. Remember its $1 billion acquisition of Tumblr? As the New York Times recently pointed out, “Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, will find out how investors value the businesses she actually runs.”

2) Tencent

Tencent Holdings is a Chinese Internet company that competes head to head with Alibaba in a variety of businesses, ranging from online advertising to e-payments. Up until now, Tencent has been the largest Chinese internet stock, with a market value of around $150 billion. That will all change after Friday, when Tencent will drop to No. 2.

Moreover, in the run-up to Alibaba’s IPO, Tencent and other Chinese stocks have gotten short shrift as investors have fixated on Alibaba. See the chart below:

TCEHY Chart

TCEHY data by YCharts

3) Uber

What threat does a giant online retailer like Alibaba pose to a mobile ride-sharing service? Well, in the U.S., Alibaba recently joined a group that invested $250 million in Uber’s rival Lyft. Meanwhile, in China Alibaba is taking on Uber by backing the taxi-booking service Kuaidi Technology.

As Fortune recently pointed out, Kuaidi has gone from zero to 100 million users and 1 million drivers in two years.

4) The Nasdaq

The Nasdaq is synonymous with hot tech stocks, such as Facebook and Google. But when Facebook went public two years ago, things did not go smoothly. Trading started about half an hour later than expected, traders complained of missed orders, and there were questions if investors were getting the prices they expected. Nasdaq officials admitted that they were embarrassed by the glitches.

It came as no surprise, then, that Alibaba chose to list on the NYSE over the Nasdaq. According to Reuters, “Alibaba executives worried about Nasdaq’s ability to handle their $21 billion initial public offering later this month, since the exchange botched Facebook’s market debut two years ago.”

5) Baidu

Baidu, which runs the biggest search engine in China, has been among the most popular Chinese stocks held by U.S. investors. In fact, a ranking of stocks held by hedge funds this year showed Baidu as the top Chinese entrant, according to Business Insider. What’s more, Baidu was ranked as the most widely held American Depository Receipt (a type of foreign equity holding listed on American stock exchanges) last year.

That’s likely to change as Alibaba is an even bigger Chinese tech play, and it’s considerably more diverse in its holdings than Baidu.

TIME Companies

Uber to Military Veterans: We Want You

German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide
In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry—Getty Images

The on-demand car service announced a new program aimed at providing economic opportunities to those who serve in the military

Uber announced a new program Wednesday that aims to get 50,000 military service members, veterans and spouses to enlist as drivers for the on-demand car service. Over the next 18 months, UberMILITARY will enlist drivers from the military community in an effort to “empower them as entrepreneurs and small business owners,” according to an Uber blog post.

Uber says its drivers’ flexible schedules could be of benefit to veterans working transition back into civilian life. The company also says the program could help members of the service community and their families combat the unique challenges they face, including high levels of unemployment and frequent relocation. Military spouses move an average of eight times over a 20-year career, while veterans under 25 face an unemployment rate of 21.4% (the national unemployment rate is 6.1%).

To achieve its goal, Uber is enlisting the help of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will serve as the chairman of UberMILITARY’s advisory board. In a joint op-ed published by Politico Magazine Wednesday, Gates and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that “UberMILITARY is a reflection that high-quality service, an unparalleled commitment to safety and the leadership potential inherent to small business entrepreneurship are values shared by those who have selflessly served our country.”

TIME technology

Uber Is Now Legal in Germany Once Again

German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide
In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry—Getty Images

Wunderbar

Updated 1:15 p.m.

Germany’s ban on Uber’s ride-sharing service has been lifted by a local court.

The Franklin Regional Court ruled Tuesday that UberPop, Uber’s cheaper alternative to its well-known black car service, could resume operating freely throughout the country. The ruling comes after Taxi Deutschland, a German taxi union, had successfully sought a nationwide injunction against Uber’s service last month.

The taxi union vowed that it would continue to fight Uber in Germany. “The taxi industry accepts competitors who comply with the law,” the organization said in a statement. “Uber doesn’t do that. Therefore we today announce that we will be appealing without delay.”

UberPop connects drivers and riders via a smartphone app. Critics say drivers are not subject to the same regulations and requirements as licensed German taxi drivers, a common complaint against Uber drivers around the world. The judge who lifted the injunction said that there was likely a legal basis to the taxi union’s complaint, but the organization could not have the issue tried as an expedited case. Therefore, the temporary inunction had to be lifted.

Uber, of course, is happy about the ruling. “We welcome today’s decision by the German court to lift the injunction placed on UberPOP by the incumbents,” Uber Germany spokesman Fabien Nestmann said in an emailed statement. “Demand is so great all across the country that we expect to double in size by the end of the year and plan to bring Uber to more and more cities across Germany.”

[WSJ]

 

TIME The Awesome Column

Here’s What Happened When I Outsourced My Entire Life

One of the two new Awesome Column logos I got for just $5.

It turned out pretty well actually

Recently, I decided to contract out the only thing I still do myself: write this column. You probably know about services like Uber, Amazon Fresh, and TaskRabbit that let you get Downtown Abbey-style service at budget prices. Now, through the magic of income inequality, web site Fiverr.com offers millions of services people will do for just $5.

Things went slowly at first—to read about my experience click here. But, eventually, like a robber baron eyeing a boat full of laborers, I really started making it rain $5 bills: I got a logo, a press release, a ukulele jingle, 500 copies posted around the University of Chicago, a translation into Chinese and a rap song by J.P. from L.A.

Here’s just a sample of what you can do in the new new economy:

Not one, but TWO Awesome Column songs

The Awesome Column Rap, Released: 2014.

The Awesome Column Jingle, Released: 2014.

Some Awesome Column in Chinese

外包曾经是你只从大公司所做的事情中听到。你可能会听到“我们刚外包到我们的服务支持台了”,或“我们需要和外包公司谈一下我们的设计工作。”

我没有写那一段。因为,在新经济中,对我来说没有必要努力做任何事情。当一个美食博客邀请我去一间很酷的中国餐馆时,我想通了这一点,当时她告诉我不要担心排队,因为她已经“TaskRabbits”了。这意味着她已经在TaskRabbit.com的网站上付了某人$35在外面排了2个小时的队,这样她就不会浪费她发美食博客的宝贵时间了。

在那一刻,我瞬间就明白了,革新很快就要到来了,我公开在冷压果汁里冲浪,不如就使用一下TaskRabbit好了。我付了出租车一半的价钱给Uber司机,让他带着我绕城一圈,通过亚马逊,$4小费可以其他人为我采购食品。我还有一个园丁,清洁工和一个保姆,这些都是《唐顿修道院》版本的仆人文化。现在,要感谢那些收入差距,我可以去另外一个叫“Fiverr”的网站,它提供百万种服务,并且只需要支付$5。这可能看起来比较奇怪,因为当列出所有付$5我就肯做的事情,其实与那些我完全可以免费做的事情完全相符的。

An Awesome Column press release

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TIME MAGAZINE COLUMNIST OUTSOURCES WRITING OF COLUMN

Joel Stein Hires Fiverr Writer to Help Pen Column on Subject of Gig Economy

New York — Sept. 15, 2014 — Time Magazine humor writer Joel Stein wanted to tackle the subject of the “gig economy” in his weekly piece “The Awesome Column.” The gig economy is a term used to describe the increasing number of professionals opting to pursue freelance work rather than 9-to-5 jobs in the wake of the Great Recession.

Stein decided it would be fitting, in a column about the gig economy, to outsource the job of writing the column to a freelancer. So he turned to Fiverr, an online marketplace through which freelancers of all stripes offer various services for $5 a job.

But because finding a worthy writer on Fiverr was work in and of itself, Stein outsourced the job of finding a writer to another freelancer via the website TaskRabbit. That task was outsourced to actor, writer and jack-of-all-trades MacLeish Day, who helped Stein locate the Fiverr content writer Jeff Butts.

Stein didn’t just stop at one Fiverr gig. After hiring Butts to write the first paragraph of his column, he decided to order other Fiverr gigs and “make it rain $5 bills” on Fiverr freelancers.

In the column, Stein details his misadventures purchasing a variety of additional Fiverr gigs, from editing of the column to pictures of Serbian model Ivona Vračević holding a sign that says, “The Awesome Column by Joel Stein,” an original Awesome Column jingle by Orange County-based ukelele player and songwriter Ryan Heenan, and more.

Even this press release was a product of Fiverr.

“I believe, per amount of work I put in, this is my best column ever,” Stein said.

Stein’s Awesome Column on the gig economy will appear in print edition of Time Magazine on DATE. All of the outsourced work can be viewed at LINK.

Read Joel Stein’s Awesome Column at http://time.com/tag/the-awesome-column/. Follow Stein on Facebook and Twitter.

And, of course, an entirely outsourced Awesome Column

Outsourcing used to be something you only heard about big companies doing. “We just outsourced our help desk,” you might hear, or “We need to talk about outsourcing our design work.”

Recently, though, it’s become almost common for individuals to outsource their own work. Got some shopping you want to do, but just don’t have the time? A site like TaskRabbit can help you find someone else to handle it for you at rock-bottom prices. Need to find someone to fix that leaky toilet? Once again, TaskRabbit to the rescue.

If your needs are more design or technical oriented, that’s not a problem, either. Freelancers hire themselves out on sites like Fiverr, where you can get a 500-word blog article written or a graphic drawn for just five bucks, less than you might spend on lunch at McDonald’s.

What does it mean when you can outsource your own work for much less than you get paid to do it? It becomes pretty lucrative to have someone else write that report for you, freeing you up to do other things. However, how fair is this for the freelancer who is doing that work for what seems like pennies?

I could even hire someone from Fiverr to write this column for me, if I really wanted to. Would that be fair to the Fiverr seller, though, since I’m getting a salary here and that seller only makes 4 bucks off the article (Fiverr takes 20% of the price for their own pockets, leaving sellers with 4 out of 5 bucks.)

Fiverr freelancer clefmeister says that it isn’t all that bad. “Most of the things I do for $5 only take me ten or fifteen minutes to do, so I’m really making 20 bucks an hour,” he said. He also said that it can be interesting, the kind of things people ask him to write about.

“I’ve got one gig right now asking me to write about premature ejaculation. I don’t know what it’s for, though. It’s too early to tell,” he quipped. Too early, indeed.

While a site like Fiverr advertises that you can get anything for a five-spot, sellers can earn the right to charge more. “I have gigs that net me as much as a hundred bucks, with Gig Extras,” clefmeister told me. He pointed out that it takes time to build up to being able to charge that much, but there are ways to turn selling on Fiverr profitable.

This ability to outsource our work to others is a different twist for the economy. Many of the sellers on places like TaskRabbit and Fiverr are 100% freelancing, either because they prefer it or because they can’t get a job in today’s economy. Some, though, just do it for extra cash.

Also, there are the freelancers signing onto the site from other countries, where $5 American is actually a hefty salary. Whether it’s a fair price or not really depends on how you look at it. If the freelancers are willing to do the work for so cheap, why not take advantage of the opportunity?

MONEY Transportation

New Taxi Service Is Like Uber — but for Women Only

SheTaxis is just like other taxi services, except it only employs female drivers and only accepts female passengers

Between Lyft, Uber, Gett and handful of other services, it seems like there’s a new, apparently derivative, taxi app launching every month. But SheTaxis, which launches in New York City, Long Island and New York’s Westchester County on Sept. 16, offers something truly different: its drivers are all women, and so are its customers.

SheTaxis, which will be called SheRide in NYC because of laws limiting who can use the word taxi, is the brainchild of Stella Mateo, a mother of two girls and wife of the founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers. Her company works just like Uber or Lyft, allowing customers to order a car using a smartphone app, except that the SheTaxis app also asks whether there is a woman in the user’s party. If not, the New York Times reports, the app automatically recommends other taxi services.

While SheTaxis is a new addition to the New York area, the idea of female-specific transportation is not a new idea — especially internationally. India, in addition to offering women-only train cars, is home to a taxi business of the same name and concept. New Zealand’s Cabs for Women also operates on the same premise as SheTaxis, providing female drivers to an exclusively female clientele. These services are generally marketed toward women concerned about sexual harassment from male drivers. According to the Times, New York City’s taxi industry is dominated by men. Only 5% of the city’s taxis — and 1% of its yellow cabs — are driven by women.

Recent examples of taxi harassment have demonstrated the need for a company like SheTaxis. In an article for the Daily Beast, Olivia Nuzzi recapped multiple instances of sexual harassment from male Uber drivers. A June report from LA Weekly described another incident in which an Uber driver allegedly “touched [a female passenger's] face, asked her to go to the beach, and kept an interior light on, possibly to look at her” during a routine trip.

Mateo told the Times she wished there were women-only taxis available when her children were young and needed to be ferried around the city to various activities. She now hopes SheTaxis will help more women become taxi drivers.

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