Uber submits patent to detect drunken app users

Irving Hamilton
June 14, 2018

John Simpson, director of the Privacy Project at the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, said use of the technology could damage Uber's business model given that many riders rely on the service after drinking and when they know it would be unsafe to drive.

A patent application first spotted by CNN reveals that the ride-sharing may be working on an AI technology that automatically detects the state of the app user, if he or she is high or sober, before getting into the vehicle.

CNN reported that more than 100 Uber drivers in the USA had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the past four years, with 31 drivers convicted of crimes including false imprisonment and rape.

The technology will detect this based on a number of factors like the typing speed of the users, how precisely they click buttons, accuracy while entering details, walking speed, the angle at which the device is held or dropped and even the time and day of the booking.

Many of these cases involved intoxicated passengers. So it might determine a customer who clumsily types past midnight on a weekend is intoxicated.

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In theory, the system could generate an alert to drivers or match suspected drunk passengers only with specially trained drivers.

"It would be cool if drivers got extra money for picking up drunk passengers". Some riders may not be able to get service at all. And when the likelihood is comparatively low, the system may match riders "normally". "And Uber will have to be very careful in how they collect and what they plan on doing with that data".

Uber says this technology will make rides safer and that it will avoid "safety incidents and personal conflict incidents, [that] can occasionally occur when users and/or providers behave uncharacteristically".

"We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features".

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