In his two and half years driving for Uber and Lyft, Jason Timm has seen some shit.
Passengers with severed fingers in need of a ride to the emergency room. Women on the run from the cops. Once, a drug dealer forced his way into the vehicle, and made Timm shuttle him around all night as he made deliveries.
"I've been a getaway car, I've been an ambulance," he says. "I've been in a high-speed chase."
Most of the time, though, when his 2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is out on the road, it's merely a spaceship.
When he first signed up for ride share, after being laid off from his corporate job at Papa Murphy's, Timm was determined to stand out. Around the holidays, he'd deck out his car with a Christmas tree and serve passengers hot cocoa. But that would last for only a month or so. He needed a more permanent hook. Several guests had commented on his car's futuristic look. So Timm—a self-described "tech and sci-fi guy"—decided to run with it.
First, he put a plasma ball in the center console. Then he installed multicolored LED lights. He even has a "virtual assistant" named Ashley, whose image is projected onto the windshield and gives safety instructions. Other than the glowing undercarriage, there's no indication the car picking you up is anything special.
But after hosting 20,000 riders, Timm's employers took notice. Uber commissioned his car for an ad, and he has plans to create a Taxicab Confessions-style YouTube show. But Timm insists he's not trying to becomet famous. It's just about doing something special for the passengers.
"It's not about tips or ratings," he says. "It's about surprising people, and making them feel spoiled. That's my mission."
Timm has continued layering the experience. Enough people have compared him to Cash Cab that he added a trivia game. If you're in the mood, there's also karaoke.
One thing Timm doesn't do is method act. For the most part, he plays the role of an average driver, introducing each feature casually. He knows not everyone appreciates sci-fi cosplay when they're just trying to get home, and the last thing he'd want to do is make his guests uncomfortable.
"If I came across as some insane weirdo," Timm says, "people would be turned off a little bit."
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