Uber wants to calculate drunk passengers when ordering a car (Topic)

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Uber wants to calculate drunk passengers when ordering a car


Uber is awaiting a decision from the US Patent and Trademark Office. In 2016, the company filed for a patent on technology that would help a ridesharing service determine how drunk a customer is by their interaction with a smartphone.

The idea is still at an early stage of development, and Uber has no plans to immediately start putting it into practice.

As with other AI-powered technologies, the new idea raises questions about how it will function and how Uber will use and store its customers' health and lifestyle data.

Some privacy experts warn that such a feature could discriminate against certain categories of individuals, including those with disabilities. And they fear that the practical application of this technology could lead to the fact that a drunk person will refuse to call an Uber taxi driver and get behind the wheel himself.

“We're constantly coming up with new ways to improve our service,” says Jody Page, a spokesman for Uber. - “We patent a lot of ideas, but not all of them are then applied in practice.”

This patent application, which was filed back in December 2016, describes the technology as follows. When a new order is received, the system collects data about the client, analyzes it and sends the result to the driver. To predict the state and behavior of the passenger, the system processes data on his past orders: how adequately he usually behaves in the cabin, how friendly he is with the driver, whether he drank alcohol, etc. The system also records the number of typos in the message and the angle of inclination at which client is holding a smartphone. Based on this, the AI determines how much the user's current behavior differs from his usual one. The driver may then receive a warning about a “possibly atypical client condition”.

It is not yet clear how the idea will be applied in practice, if approved, or whether Uber will use it at all. The patent application alone generates a lot of discussion.

John Simpson, director of the Privacy Project at the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, says the technology could harm Uber's business model, given that customers rely on drunken service when they realize it is dangerous to drive. Mr. Simpson is also worried about the fact that technology will not distinguish alcoholism from diseases in which hands can shake, for example, Parkinson's disease: a person with such a disease will be mistakenly considered drunk by the application.

What about personal data?

Jeff Chester, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Digital Democracy, is worried about something else. In his opinion, the system will collect too much personal data, which can subsequently lead to discrimination against clients based on age and gender, as well as in terms of how often they stay late in entertainment establishments.

J.T. Griffin, co-head of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, notes that the technology could be a unique way to determine whether passengers are drunk. According to him, this is one of the best solutions that could remind people that they should not overestimate their strength while drunk. When asked if drunk customers might hesitate to call Uber, Griffin replies: “Public opinion will decide. If people understand that driving drunk is more dangerous and shameful than calling a taxi, then everything will be fine. As for Uber, they should be very careful when collecting and storing personal information. ”

The Topic of Article: Uber wants to calculate drunk passengers when ordering a car.
Author: Jake Pinkman