Ride-sharing company Uber is exploring ways to identify drunk passengers, with an eye on protecting drivers from unruly customers, CNN has reported.
Uber recently filed a patent for artificial intelligence technology that can detect combinations of behaviours possible associated with intoxication, such as excessive typos when using the Uber app, time of day, distance walked and how long it takes to call for a ride.
In theory, the system could generate an alert to drivers or match suspected drunk passengers only with specially trained drivers. Drunk passengers could also be denied the opportunity to share an Uber with strangers.
But critics said it could also be used to identify vulnerable passengers.
According to the application to the US patent office, the system would spot “uncharacteristic user activity”.
In 2014 it was revealed the company used a software program known as God View to monitor real-time locations of customers and drivers.
That, coupled with a data breach that exposed personal data about more than 100,000 Uber drivers, made the company introduce tough measures to protect the privacy of drivers and customers.
CNN reported that more than 100 Uber drivers in the US had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing passengers in the past four years, with 31 drivers convicted of crimes including false imprisonment and rape.
Critics expressed concern that an app that could predict user behaviour could be used by drivers wishing to prey on vulnerable passengers.
In a statement, Uber 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.