Uber seeks patent for AI tech that determines whether passengers are drunk

It aims to "reduce undesired consequences," according to the application.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
Young wasted man text messaging on cell phone while leaning on a bar counter.
Getty Images

Uber thinks it might be helpful to know whether a passenger is intoxicated.

The ride-hailing service has an application pending before the US Patent and Trademark Office that would tap artificial intelligence to separate sober passengers from drunk ones. According to the application, the technology would be used to spot "uncharacteristic user activity," including passenger location, number of typos entered into the mobile app and even the angle the smartphone is being held.

The technology would help the startup "take an action to reduce undesired consequences" related to intoxicated passengers, according to the application.

The application underscores Silicon Valley's growing interest in AI, a field that has been dominated by big tech companies. Google, Facebook and other companies have been busy developing machines, computers or other types of systems that can exhibit human-like intelligence. The goal is to create machines that can perceive their environment and complete a wide array of everyday tasks previously performed by humans.

Uber said it had no immediate plans to implement the technology described in the proposed patent, pointing out the application was filed in 2016.

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

Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook's data mining scandal.

Protect Yourself: A guide to the different ways you can protect your privacy online.