A recently published patent details a system developed by researchers from the ride-sharing platform Uber that could monitor the behavior of riders to determine if they are drunk. This system aims to improve the experience of both the rider and the driver by minimizing or outright preventing personal conflicts and safety-related incidents. The system monitors a number of factors to determine the level of intoxication of the rider. More specifically, the system tracks the number of typographical errors made and the number of characters removed by the user when requesting a ride, the length of time before the rider interacted with the app after new information has been presented, and the accuracy in pressing the specific elements of the app's user interface. In addition, the system also monitors the way that the device is held by the user and how fast the rider walks while booking a ride. This information will be used by an artificial intelligence model, along with the location and the time of the day of the ride request and the past travel information of the user, to predict whether the person who requested the ride is drunk or sober.
If the system determines that the person who made the request is drunk, the ride-sharing platform may choose to assign the rider only to service providers who are experienced in handling similar cases, or in more serious situations, the platform may not assign an Uber driver to the user. Moreover, the system also informs the driver of the possible state of the rider, and it could also transfer the pickup and dropoff points to areas that have sufficient lighting.
Recent research shows that Uber may have helped in reducing instances of drunk driving in a number of locations across the United States since it is now easier for people to request rides home. For example, the number of driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in both Las Vegas and San Diego were reduced by more than 900 and decreases were also observed in other cities across the United States. However, it is feared that drivers with malicious intent could use the system to sexually assault or abuse drunk passengers. Court documents show that more than 100 Uber drivers have already been charged with assault, and many of the victims were drunk when the incidents took place.