Leaders of Uber seem to believe that passengers who had one too many and are throwing tantrums can be tempered with the aid of a simple toy.
An experiment is underway in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where Uber drivers leave a Bop It toy on the back seat. For those unfamiliar with the Bop It, it is a sound game noisy plastic toy that keeps its user occupied for extended periods of time. The purpose of the toy in Uber's case is to distract the inebriated passengers from harassing the drivers.
Bop It, which firstly entered stores in the 1990s, is a simple, yet engaging entertainment tool.
It is basically a stick/handle which is packed with buttons, cranks and knobs. The purpose is to follow the instructions of the pre-recorded voice, which tells you when to press a button, when to pull a knob or when to twist a crank. The instructions come at the player in an increased rhythm, until he makes a mistake.
"An intoxicated rider who is engaged in something interesting is less likely to be irritable and aiming aggression at the driver," Uber's CSO Joe Sullivan, declared. Sullivan also has extended experience with Facebook, PayPal and the U.S. attorney's office in northern California.
The initiative started as a response to the increased number of filed in complaints from Uber drivers. The Internet stands witness to the numerous videos of passenger vs. Uber driver violence, and the message boards are littered with upset drivers who find themselves threatened every day.
A Reddit thread talking about the project shows that some Uber passengers go as far as to steal the Bop It toy from the driver's backseats. Others note that listening to the monotonous instructions from the game ("Bop it", "Pull it", "Twist it") is a sure way to annoy the vehicle's driver.
Last year, an Uber driver from California pressed charges against a passenger who beat him up while exiting the vehicle. The passenger also took the driver to court, over what he called public shaming. Actually, the driver simply showcased a secretly recorded clip of the event.
Uber aims to increase its fleet numbers while competing against rival services, such as Lyft. In order to succeed, the company's freelance drivers should feel safe and motivated at the workplace.
As giving people a safe, sober ride home is one of Uber's selling points, denying drunk passengers a ride would undermine the foundation of the service. One of Uber's strongest backers is the NGO Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who urge people under influence to choose life and take an Uber cab.
Placing Bop Its in the cars of its drivers is the latest attempt from Uber to influence what goes on in its fleet.
Another way to counter the aggressiveness of passenger was tested in Seattle. There, Uber convinced some of its drivers to mount passenger-facing mirrors in their backseats. Science says that people will abstain from severe misbehavior when they see their reflection, and Uber started to test the theory.
At the beginning of 2016, Uber announced another clever way to keep its passengers busy during rides. Enter Uber Trip Experiences, a service that allows third-party developers to engage Uber users on route. For example, should you join in an Uber ride of 15 minutes, Spotify can compile a playlist for the exact duration of the trip. Should the ride be shorter, let's say of only seven minutes, Uber Trip Experiences feeds you some news to peruse until you reach your destination.
"New safety solutions are always in the works, so keep your eyes out for the next new program in your city," the company said.
At the end of 2015, Uber registered its first billionth trip in London. As a prize, the company offered Marvin, the rider, a year of Uber rides on the company's dime. His designated driver, Ara, received a vacation of her choice, in any of the Uber-Cities around the world.