Uber seeks patent for AI tech that determines whether passengers are drunk

An Uber app is displayed on a phone in London

John Simpson, director of the Privacy Project at the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, said use of the technology could damage Uber's business model given that many riders rely on the service after drinking and when they know it would be unsafe to drive. The information could then be used to determine what type, if any service to provide.

The technology would be unique in identifying drunkenness in passengers as opposed to drivers, noted J.T. Griffin, chief government affairs officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Many of these cases involved intoxicated passengers.

The patent was initially filed in December 2016 to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

A new patent application suggests Uber is looking to use machine learning to gauge the sobriety of its users.

CNN first spotted the patent application, which deals with technology that would hone in on typos, how precisely a user clicks on links and buttons, walking speed and how long it takes to request a ride.

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In theory, the system could generate an alert to drivers or match suspected drunk passengers only with specially trained drivers.

It's still unclear if the information would then be passed on to drivers.

The technology, of course, does not 100 per cent confirm that the rider is drunk but the technology could work if there's even a slight chance of drunk passenger and warn the driver.

It could help drivers who do not want to pick up inebriated riders. And when the likelihood is comparatively low, the system may match riders "normally". Uber has come under fire before for its misuse of customer data, which included Uber employees being able to track the location of ex-partners over a centralised "God View" tool.

In a statement, the company told KTVU the idea is in the early stages and that it has no immediate plans to implement the system.

"We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features".

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