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Nobody likes getting a parking ticket, but most people don’t bother to fight it because they don’t really know where to start — or don’t have the time.
Not any more, says Joshua Browder, a 19-year-old Stanford student who whipped up a parking ticket bot in his spare time. Part chatbot, part lawyer, Browder's anti-Robocop artificial intelligence app has successfully appealed more than $4 million in fines in less than 12 months.
New York City alone rakes in over half a billion dollars in parking ticket fines each year, making violations big business for City Hall. But from incorrectly listed license plates to obscured or missing parking signs to weather-related exceptions, there are plenty of reasons why a ticket can be erroneously issued.
Browder’s app, DoNotPay — his mom came up with the name — uses A.I. to generate automatic question-and-answer sessions with customers to locate loopholes or technicalities that could lead to a successful appeal in court.
"From my experience, local governments give out tickets not because people have done something wrong (for the most part), but to raise revenue," Browder told NBC News in an email interview. "As a result, they make it extremely difficult to park properly, such as placing confusing signage on the road."
To date, his “robot lawyer” has overturned 160,000 parking tickets in New York City and London, said Browder. He will be launching a Seattle-based version of the app later this year, and is even in talks with Facebook to incorporate his app into Messenger, he said.
There are already a number of comparable parking ticket defenders on the market, but with different methods and varying degrees of success. DoNotPay offers a 64 percent success rate, Browder told NBC News.
San Francisco-based Fixed, launched in 2013, uses actual lawyers to review each claim. In addition, the app taps into Google Street View to assert whether a sign was obscured, or a yellow line had faded, for example. WinIt, a popular app in New York City, processes around 200 tickets a day, say its founders. To date the app has successfully appealed around 30 percent of parking violations.
Browder has received a lot of positive feedback for his lawyer bot. “Thanks for saving us all $/time/sanity!” tweeted one fan (who happens to be an FCC commissioner).
“A lawyer working for free? Definitely a malfunction in it somewhere,” wrote one skeptical commenter.
Another had a different project in mind for such efficient legal bots.
“We need to get them on to Brexit then. And quick.”