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Uber technology sniffs out drunk passengers

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. — For Uber driver Paulie Muttillo, picking up passengers could sometimes feel like Russian roulette.

“There are times where you get a bad feeling,” Muttillo told PIX11. “Sometimes you’re not really sure who is in your car.”

It’s just part of the job for the Hudson county-based driver and the tens of thousands of others who sign up.

“There was a situation when the gentleman was drinking and I wasn’t really sure what was gonna happen,” Muttillo recalled. “I am a big guy and I’m not scared but at the same time you just don’t know.”

Uber drivers could soon get the heads up on whether their would-be passengers had one too many margaritas thanks to artificial intelligence.

According to a recently published patent, Uber has developed AI technology that could detect behavior typically associated with someone under the influence - while they use the app.

Behavior like too many typos and how a passenger is holding their phone.

With incidents involving intoxicated passengers becoming more common, the feature could be good news for picky drivers.

Drivers like Muttillo however, says he’s skeptical.

“You’re taking away the convenience of how convenient Uber is,” he said. “For passengers to just be able to call and boom, you’re there within 2 to 3 minutes, picking them up.”

“Now all of a sudden you’re gonna [get to opt out] to pick a person up because the computer is telling you something - I don’t know.”

In a statement to PIX11, a spokesperson for Uber said “We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers. We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features.”

When it comes to the actual AI technology which is in its early stages of development, the company said they have no immediate plans to implement it.