Uber’s Using AI to Detect if a Passenger is Drunk


Carpooling has its joys but it can also get uncomfortable at times – especially if you have to share the ride with a drunk carpooler. From dealing with drunk people’s loudness to avoiding getting puked on, many people who have ridden an Uber late at night can share a thing or two about drunk riders.

But this might change soon as it looks like the ride-sharing giant Uber is finding a way to improve its services both for drunk passengers and their fellow carpoolers. On Thursday, June 7, CNN spotted Uber’s patent application for an AI that detects a user’s drunken behavior, prompting the system to give tailored ride options.

How does it work?

The AI system studies how riders typically use the Uber app. It analyses an Uber user’s typing speed and precision along with their precision in clicking links and buttons. The AI also analyses how the user walks, how they are holding the phone and how their phone drops as compared to any given day.

Along with user behavior knowledge, the system’s algorithm takes into account the time and location where the ride was requested. A late-night booking from an area filled with bars, for example, would alert the system about a passenger’s sobriety – or lack thereof.

Of course, the next question to ask is, what will Uber do with this information?

Specialized Services

Through the AI system, Uber hopes to give tipsy and intoxicated passengers a custom service. If the AI assumes a passenger is drunk, it will give the driver a notification of their state or will inform the driver to go to the location a bit late to give the passenger more time to head to the designated location before the car drives off.

To enhance both riders and drivers’ safety, the AI will only match passengers with drivers who are trained or experienced in handling people in a drunken state. If the AI deems that a passenger is too drunk, it will prevent him from joining a carpool, eliminating the safety risks and inconveniences other riders might experience from a drunk, disorderly carpooler.

A Few Concerns

As with any proposed solutions, a few concerns arise. One, drivers might refuse riders if they’re too drunk as they would not want to deal with them or have their clean car get vomited on or damaged.

Should passengers be denied of transport, they might attempt riskier modes of transport such as driving under the influence.

A few Uber drivers express their concern on UberPeople.net that this is just one of the company’s ploys to charge drunk passengers with higher rates as they will need more care. Other drivers express that the increase in charges will barely – if not – trickle down to the drivers.

Another raised concern is that untrustworthy drivers might take advantage of identified drunk passengers. Although Uber attempts to provide safe and trustworthy services, there have been cases of abuse or assault at the hands of Uber drivers in the last four years. In the US alone, there are already over 100 instances of driver misconduct. Many of the victims were heavily intoxicated or completely passed out when the assault took place.

The patent is yet to be approved, and there’s a chance that this system might not make its way into the Uber app. Whichever way this goes, it looks like Uber has a long way to go in convincing consumers and drivers of the system’s safety and business benefits, respectively.

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