Uber has applied for a patent to use artificial intelligence (AI), to determine how drunk potential passengers might be. The patent includes a list of potential data Uber could use to determine an app user’s level of inebriation.
The app used to summon rides could also feed other information to the driver, including a passenger’s location, how accurately they are typing, a user’s walking speed, note unusual typos while inputting a ride request, the angle at which a user holds the phone and whether the phone is making any movement.
It could help drivers who do not want to pick up intoxicated riders.
According to the application to the US patent office, the system would spot “uncharacteristic user activity“.
Uber does not have the best track record when it comes to collecting data. The patent application brings memories of Uber’s current data collection methods, and poses questions about the potential for data like this to be abused.
In 2014 it was revealed that the company used a software program known as “God View” to monitor real-time locations of customers and drivers, to track the location of their exes as well as monitor celebrities and politicians, according to a October 2016 court declaration by Uber’s former forensic investigator, Samuel Ward Spangenberg.
That, coupled with a data breach that exposed personal data about more than 100,000 Uber drivers, made the company introduce tough measures to protect the privacy of drivers and customers.
Uber’s co-founder Travis Kalanick resigned in June 2017 over allegations of sexual harassment at the scandal-hit company.
Critics expressed concern that an app that could predict user behaviour could be used by drivers wishing to prey on vulnerable passengers.
In a statement, Uber said: “We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers.” They added that,”We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features.”