Uber is hoping kids’ toy Bop It can help pacify intoxicated passengers. Its one of several tech solutions the company is trying out.
The Bop It toy is being trialled in some Uber driver cars in Charlotte, North Carolina. For those who’ve not had the pleasure, it’s a stick-like device that has a variety of buttons and levers to press, pull or twist in response to increasingly faster audible commands.
The theory is that it should provide just enough of a mental and physical challenge (particularly to somebody worse for wear) to distract riders from being abusive or otherwise unpleasant to drivers. The seemingly obvious alternative of banning drunk riders is not ideal as Uber quite openly targets its services at people who’ve either gone out drinking because they know they can get a ride home, or folk who’ve had a few unplanned beverages and need an alternative to drunk driving.
Cars in Seattle are testing an even lower-tech idea: putting mirrors on the back of the driver seats so that people riding in the back can see their own reflection, the idea being a psychological trick to make intoxicated riders be more self-aware and thus more likely to hold off from behaving obnoxiously.
Seattle is also playing host to another experiment to make it easier to identify an Uber vehicle (which doesn’t necessarily have any clear identifying logos) in the dark. It’s simply a lighting strip on the windshield that can glow in several colors. The rider chooses a color upon booking the vehicle and the strip will then light up in the chosen color upon arrival.
The company is also trialling a nationwide program to use smartphone data to investigate reports of bad driving. It says that if a rider complains about measures such as overly-fast acceleration or hard breaking, it will look at the phone’s gyrometer, accelerometer and GPS data. (It appears the data will come from the driver’s phone rather than the customers, though this isn’t confirmed.) Uber will then either follow up with the driver or remove a low customer rating depending on whether the data backs up the complaint.