Uber deploying unique test to distract drunk passengers

Published: January 27, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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One of the main criticisms of Uber and the UberX ride-sharing service is that the company does not vet its drivers as stringently as a traditional taxi service would. However, it is often overlooked that those drivers face the same problems as their full taxi rivals, namely that passengers can still be rude, aggressive, and drunk.

Of course, the majority of rides with the UberX service in Canada pass without problem, but there have been reports of violent altercations with passengers who are worse for wear. The company understands this is a major issue as most UberX drivers use their own vehicles and do not have protective barriers that some taxis have.

The company’s current method is a passenger rating system that is designed to root out any bad passengers for other drivers to avoid. Uber is now testing another idea, and it is quite a left field one. The test, currently being run in North Carolina, sees UberX drivers place a child’s toy on the back seat, which is apparently enough to distract drunk passengers.

The toy in question is Bop It, a device that issues voice commands for the user to follow, such as “twist it” or “pull it”. This may seem crazy on Uber’s part, but the toy has been deemed a success when used on overactive children and proves a distraction. Of course, overactive children are one thing and potentially violent drunk adults are another, and Uber has not said whether its tests have been a success so far.

Driver protection is a major issue for Uber and the announcement of Aviva Canada’s auto insurance policy for ride-sharing drivers earlier this month is a major step for UberX. It means its drivers are finally going to be able to operate with fully insured vehicles and protect themselves with coverage in the event of a collision or other accident.