Uber May Detect Drunk Riders in Advance

Patent application would allow it to crunch data from ride request
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2018 12:24 PM CDT
Uber May Use Data to Guess if You're Drunk
An Uber app is displayed on a phone in London.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Keeping your drunkenness a secret from your Uber driver might be impossible in a future world, no matter how much silence emanates from the backseat. A patent application shows that Uber may be interested in trying to figure out whether potential passengers are drunk by analyzing everything from typos in the ride request to whether the phone was swaying, reports the Guardian. While it's only theoretical at this point, the idea is that certain behavior would trigger a reaction from Uber if it differs from behavior during past ride requests, reports the Washington Post. For example, a specially trained driver might arrive to transport a drunk passenger and make sure the person is dropped off in a safe spot. The app might also keep a drunk passenger from pooling with other riders.

All this "sounds helpful," but "poses questions about the potential for data like this to be abused," writes Arwa Mahdawi in the Guardian. Would drunk passengers have to pay more than others? And given that many of the abuse allegations lodged against Uber drivers have come from passengers who were drunk at the time, the system could theoretically put people at risk. Experts also fear the technology could single out people with disabilities or keep users from hailing a ride when drunk or high, per the Post. But though the patent was filed in December 2016, there's no plan to put the idea into practice yet. "We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience" and "file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features," Uber says, per the BBC. (More Uber stories.)

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