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Uber Safe Experiment Could Save Lives


Don’t drink and drive would be a lot easier with these all over San Diego

On May 16th, two young women were killed in a wrong-way DUI car acccident on SR-163 in the Mission Valley area. Sadly, the driver was repeatedly warned by his friends not to get behind the wheel. While it still requires personal committment to drive safe, perhaps Uber has the answer.

Back in April, Uber planted a kiosk in downtown Toronto, Canada. About as tall as an ATM and half as wide, Uber Safe has a screen, a breathalyzer, and a straw dispenser. Insert a straw into the breathalyzer and blow for five seconds to get your BAC measured. If you’re over the legal limit (0.08, just like California) the machine arranges for an Uber driver to pick you up and deliver you home. The cost? Absolutely free. See Uber’s demo video after the jump.

It doesn’t take an accountant to tell that Uber can’t make money on free rides, but the company has released statements that they’re thrilled at the positive reception. Though the kiosk has since been removed, Uber has suggested that they’re looking for ways to bring it back in spirit. Maybe someday a paid version will show up in major cities, offering cheap (but still paid) rides home to the inebriated.

This could save lives. Every person who got a ride home that night in Toronto got one less potential drunk driver off the road. This is an idea worth spreading, it’s much safer than a drunk person driving and easier than trying to get a cab or remembering how late public transit runs. But there are still reasons to wonder whether it will catch on. If Uber is serious about fighting drunk driving, Uber Safe is going to have to be convenient and easy to use. Convenience is a matter of putting down enough kiosks and finding a price point that gets people using it.

Just watching the video it’s obvious Uber Safe is easy to use, but I’m curious to know how someone who’s falling down drunk handles the device. No doubt the designers engaged in substantial (and probably entertaining) beta testing before releasing it to the streets.

What you think about Uber’s new program? Would you use it, why or why not?

Steven Elia
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