Uber Files Patent To Detect Drunk Riding, Shrugs Shoulders on Its Future Use
As Uber has spread and the novelty has worn away (and setting aside, for a while, the enormous dumpster fire that is the brand’s public image), we have received story after story about a more mundane problem with running a side taxi-like business: the patrons. The drunk, possibly angry, possibly nauseated patrons.
Now, though, it seems that Uber is at least considering a doing something about this, as it has applied for a patent, describing an artificial intelligence-based technology that would presumably detect drunk or otherwise intoxicated drivers.
The system is based on creating a database on the patron’s normal behavior; including how accurate they are pressing buttons, how steadily the phone is held, and how many typos the patron makes while entering a ride request. Based on comparing this to the data collected while the patron orders a ride, the app would judge whether the patron is likely intoxicated, and may adjust how it matches the patron with drivers.
Of course, critics have met this news with trepidation, with some like John Simpson, director of the Privacy Project at nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, saying that singling out drunk riders would disrupt Uber’s business model, due to the large number of people who rely on the app’s services instead of driving after a night of drinking.
In addition, we have to worry a little about Uber collecting this intimate of information, given the company’s track record of protecting that information.
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Also, Simpson added, drunkenness isn’t necessarily the only reason someone might be unsteady while ordering an Uber, saying “My big, serious concern is it seems to be 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.”
In response, Uber has stated, basically, that Uber doesn’t know exactly how it will even use this technology yet, but is just grabbing the patent. Uber spokesperson Jodi Page said, “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.”