An exterminator in the Dallas area says he regularly treats rideshare vehicles for bed bugs and is getting more and more business due to the growing gig economy.
Don Brooks is the owner of Doffdon Pest Control, an extermination company that specializes in getting rid of bed bugs. He told Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA that he’s been seeing more and more rideshare drivers come to him to rid their vehicles of bed begs and currently treats up to ten rideshare vehicles per week.
“Drivers either see bed bugs, someone complained, or they were suspicious of a customer and just want to make sure,” Brooks told WFAA. “It’s highly likely they can crawl off of someone.”
The increasing amount of rideshare drivers turning to Brooks for help should serve as a warning to companies like Waymo and General Motors‘ Cruise subsidiary. Both companies want to launch fully autonomous ridesharing services in the future, but they will have to ensure its shared AVs remain sanitary between rides, which may be more difficult when there is no driver on board. GM’s Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle, which it unveiled earlier this year, has two fabric bench seats for passengers and can seat a total of six people.
Dirty shuttles could leave companies like Waymo and Cruise with a lot more to worry about than a bad Google Play or App Store rating. WFAA identified an LA law firm that represents people who have been bitten by bed bugs while traveling in rideshare vehicles and shuttles. The firm says plaintiffs can earn a settlement from Uber or Lyft if they have sustained injuries from bed bugs or other pests while using their services, suing for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages and pain and suffering.
The WFAA report also referenced a study conducted by insurance company Netquote that found rideshare vehicles were, on average, 35 times dirtier than a toilet seat and also far dirtier than a rental car or a taxi. The dirtiest places for passengers in a rideshare vehicle were the window switches, seatbelt buckles and door handles.
Purpose-built rideshare vehicles may be able to prevent the spread of bedbugs by switching out fabrics for plastic. Antimicrobial materials could also be used in their interior to help mitigate the spread of germs for passengers.
GM has not said when it plans to launch Cruise Origin as a driverless ridesharing vehicle. We do know it will be built at the automaker’s Detroit-Hamtramck production facility in Michigan, though, and will tap the automaker’s new BEV3 electric platform.