Uber Files Patent on Tech to Detect if Riders Are Drunk

Can Uber be cracking down on drinkers getting into cars of their drivers? Currently, the ride-sharing service has a pending application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This patent is for technology that would help the company distinguish riders who are drunk from those who are sober.

Uber spokesperson, Jodie Page, stated, “We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers. We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features.”

Based on the initial patent application filed by Uber in December 2016, their system would collect data from the potential rider prior to them hailing their ride. The app would ask about what the potential rider what sort of activities they were doing. These answers are factored into the ride request.

From there, the system compares data from this ride request to past ones. Were you there before? What were other people like when they left where you were? Are you usually drunk when you make requests? These sorts of questions get figured into an algorithm.

Also factored into that algorithm? The app will take into account how many typos you made as you requested a ride and the angle that you tilted your phone during the exchange.

Uber explains in the patent, “Some examples of trip variations include matching the user with only certain (drivers), alerting a (driver) about the user’s possible unusual state, and modifying pickup or drop-off locations to areas that are well lit and easy to access.”

Claiming it’s due to safety, the app wants to make sure that if you are inebriated, you are paired up with a driver who is comfortable with the situation and capable of handling it.

Non-profit Consumer Watch Dog, Privacy Project, has been watching this patent closely. John Simpson of the operation believes this technology could hurt Uber in the long-run. Many people turn to Uber to feel safe in times of vulnerability (like when they’re drunk).

Furthermore, he’s afraid this will cause discrimination against people with unsteady hands or any disabilities.  Simpson stated, “My big, serious concern is…there are a whole host of other conditions that might come across as if a person were intoxicated when they weren’t at all, and might need an Uber because they’re physically handicapped.”

Chief Government Affairs Officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, J.T. Griffin seemed skeptical about this new technology as well. The organization believes that the human race needs to be forward-thinking about getting drunken people home safely.

When asked if they think people who have been drinking will hesitate to use Uber if they were to implement this technology, Griffin stated, “That is something that the public will have to decide… And Uber will have to be very careful in how they collect and what they plan on doing with that data.”


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