Getting home safely after a night out drinking used to be a real problem, that is until Uber came along. With a few clicks on the Uber app, an inebriated person can get home without worrying about getting arrested for driving under the influence or even worse, causing an accident.
However, drunk passengers can be a real problem for an Uber driver. Numerous incidents of intoxicated passengers falling asleep and vomiting in the car have been reported over the years. Some drunk passengers have even accused Uber drivers of sexual assault or abuse. Many of these leading to lawsuits and bad publicity for the company.
According to a CNN report, Uber appears to be working on a way to help drivers avoid, or at least limit, taking drunk passengers. A patent application filed by the company describes a program that uses artificial intelligence to identify an Uber user’s state of mind.
The technology will keep an eye on how a person typically uses the Uber app and then learns to recognize any unusual behavior. An algorithm will examine a variety of characteristics, including typos, how accurate a person is when clicking links, walking speed as well as what angle a person is holding their device. The location and time of day when a ride is requested will also be key factors.
— CNN (@CNN) March 30, 2016
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 23, 2016
How the Uber app works can change if the AI senses something isn’t quite right with the user. Essentially, this could mean drivers will be warned when a potential passenger may be drunk. The system may also only match passengers with drivers that have experience dealing with drunk people.
Alternatively, the app might not give a person in an altered state an option to get a ride.
“When the likelihood [that a user is acting ‘uncharacteristically’] is comparatively very high, the user may not be matched with any provider,” states the Uber patent application, per a report from Futurism.
However, it is likely Uber will do some further evaluation and testing of the AI system before just outright rejecting a prospective passenger based on how the device is held or walking speed. The last thing the company needs is a lawsuit because a drunk person could not get a ride and ends up in an accident.
The Uber AI patent does not specifically target drunk riders. Idealistically, it is supposed to identify people who are exhausted and likely unable to find the Uber driver’s vehicle. However, based on the behaviors the system will be looking for, it sure seems like the days of calling a friend for a ride home after a night at the bar will soon be making a comeback.