Uber, back at it again with the questionable tech. It’s no secret that Uber, as a company, has been hitting fairly constant turbulence over the last few years. With their new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, they’ve made considerable steps in the right direction. This new bit of technology they’ve pushed to the U.S. patent office has people a little concerned.
Inventions being patented have a long history of use and disuse throughout time. In 1921 the hose clamp was invented to make leak-free hoses, and, in 2018, Uber is inventing technology that aims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect</a> whether app users are inebriated.
Now, Uber has been at the forefront of revolutionizing how drunk people safely and legally get from point A to point B. Another wonderful option that keeps intoxicated people out from behind the wheel. This patent, however, raises some serious questions about what exactly Uber is trying to find out about their passengers and how it will be used. From a CNN report on the patent application:
“The patent application describes a system that learns how you typically use the Uber app, so that it can identify unusual behavior. The system relies on an algorithm to weigh a variety of factors, including typos, how precisely a user clicks on links and buttons, walking speed, and how long it takes to request a ride. The time of day, and where a ride is requested may also be considered.”
The argument here is that, should potential passengers be deemed too drunk, they may be redirected to drivers with special training or away from drivers who aren’t comfortable with such behavior. The aim, from Uber’s perspective, is to streamline the ridesharing experience for both drivers and passengers.
On the other side of the coin is the history of sexual assault charges filed against Uber drivers. Giving Uber drivers an algorithmic glance at a passenger’s altered state carries potentially predatory implications.
While one-third of roads in the U.S. are in poor to mediocre condition, instead of paying attention to those, technology is focusing on the condition of passengers trying to get home safely. Good intentions notwithstanding, Uber is being viewed as a little wayward in this particular development.
That said, most companies try for mountains patents that never see the light of day after submission. It does beg one to wonder, though, if the tech is there for it, what’s the next chunk of code to be pushed and how will it affect us on a daily basis?