Too drunk to Uber?

We should all know the rules for this by now. If you’ve been drinking, you don’t hop in your vehicle and drive home. If you’re impaired, you can wind up killing yourself, or worse, somebody else. Even if you think you’re completely fine to drive, those blood alcohol content laws are so strict these days that you can flunk the test just by having a waitress spill a beer on your jeans. So what do you do instead? Easy. You whip out your phone, fire up your Uber app and have somebody come to drive you back to your place.

Except it may not be so easy in the near future. Soon there won’t be any “Drunk Ubering.” I don’t mean the Uber driver is drunk… I mean they won’t make the pickup if the passenger is drunk. (Associated Press)

If you’re too drunk to drive, well you may also be too drunk to get into an Uber. The ridesharing giant wants to patent a system that can detect if you’ve had too much to drink even before you get in the backseat.

Uber driver Dave Carpenter knows the telltale signs of an intoxicated passenger.

“If someone like a bartender or a friend walks somebody up to a car, that’s a red flag you need to look at.”

He’s seen it way too many times.

“It happens daily. I mean our town we have a substance that goes on day and night.”

I know from many conversations with my Uber drivers that one of the things they hate the most is drunk passengers. It’s not so much concern over getting stiffed on the fare because that’s all handled by credit card through the app. What they’re really worried about is drunks vomiting in their car. There are also concerns about drunken passengers getting violent. Of course, after only one or two instances like that, your rider rating will drop so far that you probably won’t be getting any more rides. Many drivers I’ve spoken with tell me that they don’t take pickups after a certain time or accept hails from downtown districts where all the bars are late at night.

But it’s a bit late – or at least really awkward – to wait and find out that your rider is drunk after you arrive at the pickup spot. So Uber is looking at technology to calculate what the odds are that you are drunk when you request a ride and warn the drivers appropriately. How do they do that? They claim that they’re testing an algorithm that will check for things like how many typos you make, how precisely you click, your walking speed and the time of day.

I suppose that would up the likelihood of guessing that somebody might be drunk, but it sounds to me as if they might start downgrading a bunch of people who are just tired, in a hurry or not very good with their phones. While I understand their concerns, Uber needs to be careful with this. If they start stranding riders who are fully sober based on where they are and the time of night, a lot more people will be downloading Lyft.