A teenager created a robot lawyer app that can help people overturn parking tickets by generating appeal letters for them.
Stanford freshman Joshua Bowder spent a lot of time doing what most of us don’t even know how to do—writing appeal letters for parking tickets he received. When he realized others probably didn’t know how to create the letters and that they were unrightfully paying the fees, he decided to create an app to make it easier to generate the letters.
DoNotPay is a new robot lawyer app that draws up a customized template for appeal letters, allowing users to avoid courts, legal fees, stress, and having to pay a lawyer.
The free app has so far helped to overturn 160,000 parking tickets in New York and London in the nine months since it was launched. The success rate of the app is 64% and it has appealed $4 million in parking fines since its inception. In 2014, New York City collected $546 million in revenue from parking tickets.
Bowder put together the app by reading thousands of pages of documents related to parking tickets that were released under the Freedom of Information Act and how to appeal them. He also consulted a traffic lawyer to help him understand the legal process and get tips on what kind of appeals work.
Like many intelligent apps, DoNotPay gets smarter every time someone uses it because of the data it collects. The robot communicates with the user to find the best possible appeal by asking them a series of questions about the problem the user encountered when parking.
The app is not commercial and Bowder plans to keep it that way because he despises bots that are used for vapid commercial use. Bowder told the Anti-Media that he was driven by a sense of social justice when he realized that parking tickets are simply targeting vulnerable people in a policing-for-profit scheme.
Bowder told TechInsider,
“If it is one day possible for any citizen to get the same standard of legal representation as a billionaire, how can that not be a good thing?”
He decided to develop the app with algorithmic intelligence because he called it a “humanitarian goldmine.” These bots are able to communicate directly with people to solve their problems and are therefore able to reach more people. Fans of the app are calling Bowder the “Robin Hood of the Internet.”
DoNotPay has already broadened its horizons by assisting with delayed or canceled flights, payment protection insurance claims (PIP), and legally disclosing an HIV-positive health status, which is sure to be a tricky feat. As far as expanding to other cities, Bowder’s plan is to next tackle Seattle.
Despite actively working against them, government agencies have been surprisingly supportive with the app’s development and have personally used it to test for glitches. Friends of Bowder have also expressed support, and one of them has even created their own app that scans for blood to test the likelihood that a person has contracted malaria.
Bowder plans to continue creating programs like these to assist others worldwide and his next project is an app to help Syrian refugees seek legal asylum. The chatbot would translate Arabic to English and create legal documents.
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