Robot Fights Against Parking Tickets

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Let’s face it, city driving can be fraught with peril. The battle between pedestrians and drivers has no end in sight, accidents are possible around every corner, and parking is a royal hassle. In a city as populated as New York, where there are over 3.5 million registered drivers, owning a car can be a problematic to say the least. Aside from the upkeep of gas and maintenance, parking in New York is a nightmare.

Between the competition for precious few parking spots and the street signs that are easy to misread or simply miss altogether, receiving a parking ticket is all but inevitable. This is, or course, not to mention the ever-vigilant and un-flexing enforcers and meter maids. This makes sense, considering the fines for parking tickets is money that goes directly to the city. In 2015, New York City broke records by collecting $1.9 billion in fines for motor violations. Parking tickets raked in $565 million, or 59 percent of the total fines collected.

In the midst of all this red tape and financial chicanery, a new power has risen up to fight against it. DoNotPay is an artificial intelligence, or AI, that is designed to help refute parking fines. The AI was developed by Joshua Browder, 19, originally in the UK.

The genesis of DoNotPay traces its way to to UK circa 2014, where Browder was often confronted with parking violations. According to Browder, the appeals process was so regulated and formulaic that he decided an AI could perform it, and so he wrote a program that would allow him to complete the appeals with relative ease. DoNotPay has been under beta testing in New York since April, and has fought around 10,000 parking tickets thus far.

The process behind the AI is relatively simple. After accessing the program, DoNotPay will ask several questions, including who the owner of the car was or if the information on the ticket was wrong. In an ironic twist, because traffic rules in the city are so stringent, human error on the side of law enforcement can result in a successful appeal. DoNotPay then determines if any qualifications are met, and if they are, DoNotPay generates a letter that outlines the issue with the ticket in question to bring to an appeals court. The process is both simple and effective.

The success rate of DoNotPay is rather high, with 64 percent of its appeals ultimately going through. Even if it doesn’t, Browder runs the service for free, meaning there are no legal fees to pay. A typical lawyer fee for appealing a ticket is half the cost of the ticket, and that needs to be paid whether they win or lose. Since DoNotPay runs for free, competing lawyers have tried to purchase the helpful AI, but Browder continues to turn them down.

Though DoNotPay launched only a few months ago in New York, its momentum is giving Browder ideas for other projects, including an AI to help deal with appeals for missed flights and another for those seeking asylum. In the meantime though, DONOtPay will continue to help New Yorkers appeal their tickets, free of charge.