Uber has patented a controversial piece of technology that could route users away from ‘unsafe’ areas.
The patent application, updated in late June, would allow Uber users to select what the app determines to be the safest route, rather than the fastest one that’s usually selected.
The technology would use crime statistics, academic databases, social media posts, and media reports to determine which areas are safe and which are not.
“Safe areas may be determined based on the number of incidents relevant to driver or rider safety, the presence of lighting, the presence of pull-off areas… and one or more of the like,” the patent reads.
Additionally, the technology could be used to assess the safety of an Uber driver’s vehicle. If a rider sets a preference to ride in only the safest of vehicles, the app could draw on information from federal safety databases to look for a nearby vehicle that meets the user’s preference.
On the surface, these features may seem harmless enough. However, CNET reports that there’s a risk it could be used for classist or racist purposes to avoid areas populated by certain people, even if they’re not necessarily unsafe neighborhoods.
What’s more, allowing riders to select their safety preference could restrict the money earning potential of those drivers who don’t own a vehicle loaded with the latest safety equipment.
At this early stage, it remains to be seen if the ride-hailing company intends on implementing this technology into its application. If it does, it better tread carefully because the latest thing the ride-hailing company needs is to court even more controversy.