In a strange turn of events, Uber pursues a patent that will help determine if a client is too drunk to be driven home. Following a rash of complaints related to belligerent drunks and vomit-stained interiors, the company has decided to take action.
Still, the concept of denying a safe ride home to drunk clientele has some people scratching their heads. Especially bizarre — Uber’s PR has cited the patent as a means of preventing “undesired consequences” of drunkards. One might mention cars piloted by drunk idiots — who are incidentally angry at being denied a ride by an Uber driver — as a reasonably undesired consequence.
Those responsible enough to leave their keys at home might become invitations to muggings or cause traffic issues as they shamble back to a hotel room or apartment. After all, one of the benefits of Uber has always been its ability to get you from point A to point B regardless of your state. Removing that final clause will undoubtedly hurt business and cause some problems for those of us trying to navigate the labyrinth of city streets at three in the morning.
As it stands, Uber has some framework for handling those who can’t control themselves. When an individual decides to take a ride home, they opt into an agreement that the passenger will shoulder any damage caused to the driver’s car. If you puke in an Uber, you will foot a cleaning fee — which usually falls between $40 and $100 — for the damages.
However, as anyone who’s ever DD’d can tell you, there’s more to handling drunk people than scrubbing your car’s interior. Name-calling, poor directions and other forms of idiocy are all part of the nightly dealings of many Uber drivers. Further, some things — memories included — don’t wash out. If it was a company cab, maybe it’s a different story. However, the genius of Uber is that the drivers provide the vehicles — their personal vehicles — making the grossness that much worse.
The implementation of the AI technology also comes with its problems. The patent suggests the Uber mobile app will work when deciding if a passenger is too intoxicated. The way the passenger is holding his or her phone, spelling and grammar issues and slurred speech when talking to the driver on the phone could all factor into the decision.
Using these criteria presents some problems. For one, not all symptoms of drunkenness manifest equally. In many cases, a person can hold himself together until he gets in the car. Then carsickness — along with the alcohol — can combine disastrously. Further, this all gets back to the original point — if someone is drunk enough to be detectable by a mobile app, they are certainly too drunk to find their way home. In today’s day and age, ridesharing companies like Uber provide a critical service.
So far, Uber has made no move to implement the patent, and it is entirely possible they never will. After all, a tremendous amount of Uber’s business comes from late-night drunk rides — cutting these out requires a massive shift in company branding that would take considerable time and effort.
Many cities experienced considerable decreases in drunk driving accidents following Uber’s appearance — cutting this service could present major problems for the greater population in these areas. So while escorting drunk passengers from one place to another can be a drag — and could probably be improved for the drivers — refusing rides is a questionable direction at best.