Uber said it conducted a recent study that found the majority of prospective women drivers were only interested in driving women riders.
“This newly introduced feature will open new doors and opportunities for women as Uber driver-partners, while being conscientious of local cultural norms,” said Abdellatif Waked, general manager of Uber Middle East and North Africa, in the company’s announcement about the feature.
The company said it has no intention of rolling out the feature to other markets as of now.
“The women’s preferred feature was designed specifically for Saudi Arabia based on extensive research done to understand the needs of women in a country going through a significant cultural transformation,” Shaden Abdellatif, Uber spokesperson for the Middle East, said in a statement to CNN Business.
In August, when the petition first circulated, safety advocate Cindy Southworth, executive vice president at National Network to End Domestic Violence and safety board member at Uber, told CNN Business that this would be difficult to execute. Although rideshare companies can confirm the identities of their drivers based on their applications, it’s difficult to do the same with passengers, Southworth said.
For example, a man, in theory, could use the feature to prey on female drivers.
“Conceptually, the idea of being able to pick the gender of your driver is appealing,” she said, likening it to her preference for female doctors when given the choice.