If Uber wasn’t making the news enough these days, there might be one more reason. I personally can’t decide if this is a good idea or not. Uber is thinking about how they can use your phone in order to determine if you’ve been drinking. Is this weird? A patent application was discovered by CNN titled “Predicting user state using machine learning”. The patent outlines this idea, which is to watch how you behave on a day-to-day basis in order to pick up on your “normal” behavior. This could include how you’re using your phone – like what angle you’re holding it, and even how you’re walking. On one hand, I kind of think this is really neat, but on the other hand, this kind of scares me.
The drinking aspect of it might be a bit easier to predict especially if you request a ride late at night from the same spot every week. The idea is that the drivers will be given this information ahead of you getting into the car, in order to prepare them for what to expect. Isn’t this a bit creepy though? I mean, if you request a ride from a bar (for example) and it’s 2 am, there’s a good chance that the person requesting the ride is intoxicated. I’m not saying that it’s a blanket statement we can make for everyone, but I think the odds are pretty high. The downside? A driver could choose to not pick you up if you are drunk. But the driver could also choose not to pick you up if they identify the bar that you’re frequenting.
Some are suggesting that this leaves people in a precarious position, and even implies that people might drive themselves drunk. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think they would keep looking until they could find a ride. Or, they might switch to Lyft, or maybe even a cab, if they’re that desperate. I guess I don’t buy this kind of outcome because of the discrimination. That said, is this something that you even want to give to Uber? Talk about protecting your data. Do you want Uber to know that you’re drunk?
For example, a couple of weekends ago, I got pretty drunk. I was out with my boyfriend, who was completely sober. But regardless, the most obnoxious thing about me was that I was laughing a little bit too much. I wasn’t getting sick in the car that we ordered (which wasn’t an Uber by the way). I wasn’t passing out in the backseat. I like to think of myself as a fun drunk, but that might be my assessment when I’m intoxicated. That said, it was probably obvious to the driver that I had been drinking. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I’m also not saying that he needed an app or artificial intelligence to see this.
In general, this idea may not be something that Uber will be able to pull off. Especially when they can only track the data when you’re using the app itself. In fact, this could be a reason why people stop using the app altogether. What do you think? Do you think that this is too invasive?