Electric scooter company Bird is putting up a digital speed bump to keep riders from scooting under the influence.
A new “checkpoint” feature in the Bird app was announced in a blog post on Thursday. Once the feature is rolled out, before you can access the app to unlock and pay for an e-scooter for any late-night or early-morning rides, you’ll need to pass through the checkpoint Bird calls “Safe Start”: If you can’t type out a keyword you’ll be unable to use Bird until you can get it right.
It’ll first roll out between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. in U.S. cities before spreading to global locations by the end of summer. Bird is available in more than 200 American, European, and Middle Eastern cities.
Safe Start is a very basic test to see if you should be able to rent and ride an e-scooter. During nighttime hours the app will serve as a reCAPTCHA of sorts. Instead of checking if you’re a robot, it checks to see if you’re drunk.
But unless you’re obliterated, typing out a keyword, like the word “SAFE” — as shown in Bird’s example photo — seems more like a hassle than a true barrier.
Bird is aware that correctly typing a simple word won’t eliminate intoxicated riding, but it might give some riders pause. At the very least, Bird’s efforts may place the problem of drinking and riding top of mind, as it has done with other safety issues. For years, Bird and other scooter-share companies have added safety videos, checklists, and scooter features like “skid detection,” which spots and notifies potentially unsafe riders.
If you can’t make it past the in-app checkpoint, the Bird app will encourage you to find an alternate way to get around, like a taxi or rideshare. But it’s more of a gentle nudge in the direction of safety than is implied by the word “checkpoint,” which evokes a police DUI checkpoint.
Besides, without industry-wide adoption, users who manage to fail the Safe Start test can switch to another scooter-share app without such a hoop to jump through. So much for safe scooting.