Uber's trick for taming drunks? A children's toy

Placing Bop It toys in cars is reportedly preventing drunk passengers from bopping their Uber drivers.

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Bop the toy, not the Uber driver.

Hasbro

Uber is using the classic tactic of misdirection to keep drunken passengers from abusing drivers.

The ride-hailing service is providing the tipsy in the North Carolina city of Charlotte with the children's toy Bop It to keep them occupied so that their sober drivers don't have to put up with any high jinks, nonsense or abuse.

"Folks there have found it's a great way to keep drunk riders entertained so they don't distract their driver," Joe Sullivan, Uber's chief security officer, said in a blog post.

Uber relies on a two-way rating system to apprise drivers of their prospective passengers' likely behavior, and vice versa, but it seems that when some Uber customers indulge in a tipple or two -- something that often goes hand in hand with hailing a ride -- they forget their manners. Adults who have had one too many behave in ways that can put the most tantrum-tastic tots to shame, so using toys to keep them occupied them seems apt.

San Francisco-based Uber has grown quickly in its six years, operating in 300 cities in 58 countries around the world. With all those passengers to ferry around, it's not surprising that among them are some miscreants who forget or simply don't care that the drivers get to give them a star rating at the end of the journey.

The annoyance and threat posed by intoxicated passengers is a danger of the job for Uber drivers. Many drivers take to forums to vent their frustrations over drunk customers, sharing tips on how to deal with them. Videos have also appeared online of drunk passengers behaving violently or threateningly toward drivers. This is the flip side of passengers having to worry about bad-egg drivers.

One video featured a passenger who bluntly refused to get out of the car. Bop It, which is addictive in nature, might not be the best solution in this particular scenario. The popular toys feature colourful knobs, buttons and levers that must be pushed, pulled and bopped in a specific order to test a player's rhythm and coordination.

In Seattle, drivers have also been installing passenger-facing mirrors in the back of the front seats, reported the Guardian. The theory goes that people are more likely to self-moderate their behavior if they have to stare at their own reflection.

Uber is also looking out for its passengers, though. It's currently running a test program to use the gyroscopes, GPS devices and accelerometers in a driver's phone to ensure that passengers aren't subjected to dangerous driving.

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