Uber is working on an algorithm that may be able to predict, amongst other things, if you’ve been drinking before you ordered a ride. According to a patent filed with the U.S. patent office, Uber is working on artificial intelligence to “predict a user state.” Theoretically that would allow it to suss out the tipsy riders from the sober riders.
To be clear, there’s a good chance that Uber already knows your 2 a.m. pickup from the bar is a drunk call. But this new technology would make that knowledge official before anyone from the company even sees you. The patent states that Uber will judge a person’s mental state by comparing “data input accuracy, data input speed, interface interaction behavior, device angle, or walking speed” to past rides. Drivers can also give input on whether a user acted “strangely or erratically” for rides at similar times of day in the past. In other words, your typos when inserting an address, button fumbling, weird phone angle and slow stumbling are going to give your drunk self away.
Once Uber has successfully judged you, it can do a couple different things. It can let the driver know, give the rider different directions to the pickup location, select a safer meeting place “in more well-lit areas,” give the user more time to get to the pickup location and prevent a user from using UberPOOL. It can also assign specific drivers that “have a history of picking up users in an unusual state” to riders.
If this sounds like Uber is acting like Big Brother and monitoring your drinking habits too much, it’s important to note that the patent doesn’t straight out say that it’s targeting drunk people. Instead they use the example of a rider who “is uncharacteristically tired when requesting a trip.” These “uncharacteristically tired” riders Uber describes sure do sound like drunk people, though.
On the other hand, if you only use Uber if you’re drinking (or “tired”) and need a ride home, your erratic behavior will seem normal to Uber. So there’s that.