The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

This Pokemon Go Chauffeur Wants To Keep Diehard Players Out Of Car Crashes

By Mae Rice in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 19, 2016 5:28PM

Photo via Facebook

Art Jeffries, 50, is an entrepreneur: a seller on Etsy, Amazon and eBay, an Uber driver and, as of two days ago, a Pokemon Go chauffeur. Like any savvy businessman, the Des Moines resident noticed that Pokemon Go is incredibly popular... and dangerous to play while driving, as this player who drove into a tree last week can attest. So he's set up a fledgling business to address that problem.

"I'm charging an hourly rate for people to ride in my car and I take 'em around so they can play Pokemon GO safely," Jeffries told Chicagoist. "Because I've seen people trying to do it from behind the wheel of the car, and that's obviously not gonna end well."

The service he provides isn't a guided tour of Des Moines' hotspots, exactly. He doesn't play Pokemon Go himself, so he just takes players where they ask to go—though he's starting to notice that some downtown locales are very popular, especially the sculpture park.

To make sure his passengers can catch Pokemon in his car, Jeffries said he tries stick to side streets where he can go 25 m.p.h. or slower. "I drive through a lot of parks," he added. "I mainly just drive places where I can keep the speed down."

He'll also pull over upon request—provided it's safe, of course. "I won't do is some kind of crazy driving maneuver."

So far, though, catching Pokemon hasn't been a major problem. Server issues have been more of an issue, as has battery life. "I'm providing everybody with a plug-in," Jeffries said, so the game doesn't sap their battery.

His current rate for his services is $20 for the first hour, and $10 for each subsequent hour, though on Aug. 1, he's raising his prices to a flat $20 an hour. "Most people have been wanting to do two to three hours at a time," he said. The first hour, apparently, goes fast.

Jeffries put that decal on his car—which he reassured us is just a magnet, not a permanent look—on Sunday. So far, he says he's gotten about half a dozen calls, but "it's really just now starting to gain traction."

He's glad, and not just because it's a way to make cash. "I thought it was silly at first," he said—but now, the way he sees it, he's keeping players who would otherwise be getting into car crashes safe, and he's opening up the game to new players.

"There are people with disabilities that for whatever reason can't take part in the game because they can't walk like most people do," Jeffries said. "So my service [could allow] people to take part in the game that might not otherwise have a chance to."

He hasn't had any disabled customers yet, though. "So far, everybody I've had in my car has just been like, 20 somethings," Jeffries said. "Young professionals, that kind of thing." (He's gotten quite a bit of interest from kids, but he won't let anyone under 18 in his car without parental consent.)

As far as Jeffries knows, he's the only Pokemon Go chauffeur in Des Moines, but he said there are other people doing the same thing in other cities. If you're a Pokemon Go chauffeur in Chicago, email—we'd love to talk with you.