Uber applies for patent to spot drunk passengers

14 June, 2018, 09:04 | Author: Eric Barnett
  • An Uber app is displayed on a phone in London

But the San Francisco based ride-sharing company is seeking a patent for technology that would detect a potential client's state of sobriety.

Uber thinks it might be helpful to know whether a passenger is intoxicated. A patent application shows Uber is working on using artificial intelligence to identify intoxicated users to better tailor ride options.

The algorithm will examine a number of factors, such as typos, walking speed, how precisely users press in-app buttons, the amount of time it takes standing on the curb to order a ride.

In many of these cases, the passengers were inebriated or drinking before taking the cab. Some riders may not be able to get service at all.


In theory, the system could generate an alert to drivers or match suspected drunk passengers only with specially trained drivers. And while the data could help drivers cater to user needs - maybe with a pre-reclined seat, or a helpfully placed bucket - it could also pave the way for further breaches of trust.

The technology, of course, does not 100 per cent confirm that the rider is drunk but the technology could work if there's even a slight chance of drunk passenger and warn the driver. And when the likelihood is comparatively low, the system may match riders "normally". Some privacy experts question whether the information gathered could end up being stored to track health and lifestyle choices of Uber customers.

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". The idea is still in its early stages, and the company has no immediate plans to start using the technology as described in the application.

In a statement, Uber said: "We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers".

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