With the ongoing technological advancement, there is no telling what to expect next. For instance, Uber could be developing technology that can detect if its app users are high or drunk. A recent patent application from the company outlined details about a system with the capability to recognize if someone is exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior by spotting small changes in the behavior when using the Uber application.
Aside from details regarding the system, the patent also includes a detailed list of potential data that Uber could utilize in determining its app users’ inebriation level. The details include unusual typos made when inputting a ride request, walking speed, whether the phone is swaying or when the angle at which the phone is held. Although the patent application does not reveal that the proposed system would be utilized in identifying whether someone is on drugs or drunk, it entails the forecasting of user state through machine learning and uncharacteristic user conditions, which would be the most probable interpretation.
When the theoretical artificial intelligence (AI) recognizes that someone is acting strangely, it modifies Uber’s services accordingly. The patent application recommends several ways that the company can tailor its services including detecting users to an ideal pickup point or even matching users with drivers with training and experience in dealing with passengers. Uber also suggests that it may utilize the remarkable technology to avert users from mixing with other passengers.
Even though developing unique safety measures for drunk or high passengers may be helpful, Uber’s patent application focuses on the scope of the company’s data gathering techniques. In turn, it asks questions regarding the probability of such to be abused. Although the startup appointed a new CEO last year, Dara Khosrowshahi after the resignation of co-founder Travis Kalanick, it ‘s history as far as customer data is concerned is murky. Samuel Ward Spangenberg, Uber’s former forensic investigator, Uber’s God View tool, which displayed the location of users who had requested a vehicle, was highly abused by the company employees in tracking their ex-lovers as well as monitoring politicians and celebrities.
With the new system in the development phase, there are certain concerns that the technology may put drunk users in harm’s way. CNN’s recent investigation cited that at least 103 Uber drivers, particularly in the United States, have been accused of misconduct including abusing their passengers or sexually assaulting them in the past four years. What’s more, most of those victims were drunk passengers.
Aside from putting drunk users in dangers, it could be misused, for instance in charging passengers. Although the startup’s pricing plan is akin to a black box, whereby nobody knows how the algorithm functions, Uber has some ideas about when customers are likely to be overcharged. Drunk passengers are less likely to be concerned about the amount of money they spend on transportation.
Despite the lack of evidence to show that Uber’s patent application is more than theoretical, nothing suggests that the company is not currently analyzing the data.