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Uber applies for patent to help them recognise drunk passengers

Uber has recently applied for a patent to use AI in determining just how drunk passengers might be before a pickup.

According to the patent filed on June 14, this artificial intelligence could measure an Uber user’s walking speed, identify unusual typos and even pick up on when a phone is being held at an unusual angle while a ride is being requested — all through “predicting user state using machine learning”.

But the patented system doesn’t stop there.

According to the patent, if the app does detect unusual behaviour (i.e. thinks you’re para), it might be able to adjust accordingly. The app could direct users to a well-lit pickup point or even match users with Uber drivers who have experience handling drunk passengers.

According to The Guardian, it “may also use the technology to prevent users from pooling with other passengers” because, let’s face it, there is nothing cool about catching a ride home next to a sloppy drunk.

Sounds all good on the surface. But this technology could quickly be misused and put inebriated people in a very vulnerable position. After all, Uber is not exactly a squeaky clean ride share app.

Just one year ago a 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped and sexually assaulted by a Brisbane Uber driver after buying ice cream.

And just in May, Uber announced that it would install a panic button on its U.S. app to stop sexual harassment.

Freelance journalist Emily Reynolds finds the patent troubling.

“For a company with such a poor track record when it comes to sexual assault, the prospect is worrying,” she wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

“For our sake – and for the sake of Uber’s incredibly overworked PR team – let’s hope that this one doesn’t get off the drawing board.”

Right now the AI system is only in the very early stages and there’s no word yet on whether or not Uber will even use the technology.

In a statement, Uber was quite hush-hush about the patent, saying: “We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers. We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features.”

Via BBC News

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