Uber has changed the way people get to and from places, especially those that may have had one cocktail too many. In March of 2018, it was reported that Uber had 75 million riders with 10 million trips taken each day.

Recently, Uber filed a new patent application with technology that has the ability to determine a user’s level of inebriation. This new patent application, “Vehicle Servicing System” is described as a system that uses a computer model to predict the user’s state.

This new artificial intelligence would be able to determine a user’s level of inebriation by requesting current data on their information and behavior. For example, if a user is in an area of town known for its nightlife, it’s two in the morning, the user is walking slowly, and the user is typing in the app in a slow manner which contains a lot of typos, all of these behavioral factors could be taken into consideration. The behavior is then compared to previous requests and behaviors, and the service request can be altered based on the state of the user.

This raises some concerns as Uber ride requests surge around bar closing times. Uber is one of the safest ways an intoxicated person can get home. Uber reported 60 fewer drunk driving car accidents each month in California. “Several independent studies have shown Uber’s presence in cities can help reduce drunk-driving,” a company spokeswoman said. “We’re glad to provide an alternative to drunk driving that helps people make safer, more responsible choices.”

Uber responded to the concerns and said, “We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers. We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features.”

The information being collected is not just for determining a user’s inebriation level. If the algorithm feels the user’s behavior is unusual, it could possibly pair them with a more experienced driver or potentially deny the ride request completely. The technology may also deny the user the ability to join an UberPOOL, a ridesharing service that gives riders an option to share rides, matching them with riders who are going in the same direction.  

As Uber stated, this technology has just been described in a patent application and has not been implemented, but it does have many concerned as a majority of those getting an Uber may do so because they are inebriated.

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, based in Omaha, NE, serving all of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patent, trademark, or copyright matters would like to speak with one of our patent attorneys, please contact us.