Uber could soon know if you’re drunk before the car arrives to pick you up

Uber is looking at the idea of using artificial intelligence (A.I.) to determine if riders have had one beer too many, and then tailor its service accordingly.

A patent application filed by the ridesharing company this week details how A.I. could be used to detect small changes in a rider’s behavior as they use the app to request an Uber.

Titled “predicting user state using machine learning,” the patent doesn’t explicitly mention drunkenness or drug use. But its contents, which speak of “uncharacteristic user states” and “identifying a normal or abnormal state of the respective user,” suggest such matters may be at the center of the idea. Other conditions that could also conceivably lead to uncharacteristic behavior by a rider could also include extreme tiredness.

So how would it work? According to the filing, A.I. smarts built into the app would monitor behavior such as typing speed and accuracy, as well as walking speed and direction, before interpreting the data to determine whether the rider is compos mentis or utterly mangled.

In other words, if you’re typing slower than usual, making more mistakes than you ordinarily do, and perhaps dropping the phone or staggering all over the place, the software is likely to conclude that you’re intoxicated.

The algorithm could also make use of time and location data, taking special note of whether or not the ride request is coming from an entertainment area with bars and clubs at the end of the night.

If the system concludes that the rider is inebriated, it could deal with the Uber request in a number of ways. For example, it might match the razzled rider with a more experienced driver, or one trained to handle such potentially disorderly passengers. It might also prevent drunk riders from taking a pooled ride. At the very least, it would serve as notice to the driver that the rider they’re about to collect may be the worse for wear.

Of course, if the algorithm detects someone in a particularly bad state, a driver may simply refuse to pick them up for fear of them vomiting in their vehicle, or worse.

Some Uber riders, however, may find the idea expressed in Uber’s patent somewhat troubling, especially as it could offer a way for predatory drivers to target vulnerable riders who may not be in full control of their faculties.

Privacy advocates, too, may not like the sound of it. Uber doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to handling customer data, and holding information on when its riders are perceived to be sozzled or sober may leave some riders feeling uncomfortable.

When asked about the patent, Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi told the NY Post that “it’s kind of a cool idea,” adding that if it made Uber safer, “it’s certainly something we would look at.”

It should be pointed out, however, that at this stage it’s simply an idea outlined in a document, so it may never see the light of day. We’ll keep you posted.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Did you see that?! Tour the blockbuster booths of CES 2019

You may not be able to attend CES in Las Vegas, but we’re bringing all of the best booths to you. From LG’s wall of OLED TVs to a full-scale flying taxi, these are spectacles we won’t forget.
Cars

Baby, you can’t drive my cube: All the insane self-driving lounges at CES 2019

Why drive when you can ride? At CES 2019, car companies are showing off an array of self-driving shuttles, cars, and vans that promise to ferry passengers from Point A to Point B while they kick back and relax in comfort.
Emerging Tech

You may soon be able to summon an autonomous wheelchair like an Uber

At CES 2019, autonomous wheelchair company Whill unveiled its vision for a world in which people can summon its wheelchairs by app, in locations such as museums, airports, and city centers.
Mobile

Benchmark scores surface for Google's midrange Pixel 3 XL Lite

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.
Apple

Rumors say Apple's AirPower wireless charger may finally be in production

At its September event in 2018, Apple unveiled the AirPower, a new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Computing

Beam up the videos: AirPlay support is coming to VLC player

At CES 2019, the developers of VLC player announced they are adding support for Apple's Airplay feature, allowing consumers to beam video and other content from their iPhone and Android devices to an Apple TV. 
Mobile

The LG G8 ThinQ may arrive at MWC 2019 with an on-screen speaker

LG is expected to release a successor to the LG G7 ThinQ, possibly called the LG G8 ThinQ, this year and rumors about it are already spreading. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Mobile

Oppo could reveal a new smartphone with a 10x optical zoom

Cracking a solid zoom on smartphones has been a riddle many years in the solving. One company may have finally cracked it though: Oppo may be about to show off a phone with a 10x optical zoom.
Outdoors

Nike’s Adapt BB shoes let you tighten your laces with an iPhone

The new Nike Adapt BB shoe comes with smartphone connectivity that allows the user to tighten the laces using a smartphone while providing the ability to adjust tension throughout the game.
Wearables

How to switch TicHealth to Google Fit on the Mobvoi TicWatch C2 and TicWatch Pro

The Mobvoi TicWatch C2 and TicWatch Pro are both much-loved and feature-packed watches, and they offer excellent fitness tracking. Recently, Mobvoi has switched out Google Fit for TicHealth, but you can switch them back. Here's how.
Mobile

If you're looking for a good laugh, here are 70 questions to ask Siri

Siri has come a long way since her first appearance on the iPhone 4S in 2011. We know she can make appointments and give directions, did you know she can make you laugh too? If you want proof, here are lots of funny questions to ask Siri.
Mobile

Benchmark results show Snapdragon 855 destroys previous-generation chip

Almost exactly a year after the launch of the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm took the wraps off of its next-generation mobile platform, the new Snapdragon 855. The new chip puts an emphasis on A.I. performance.
Mobile

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.