If there’s one thing that grinds motorists’ gears, it’s parking fines. However, drivers can now fight the fine through a new website, donotpay.co.uk.
The free service, which is the brainchild of Joshua Browder, helps users appeal against car parking tickets in just 30 seconds. The British-born entrepreneur came up with the idea for the online robot lawyer after receiving 30 parking tickets in and around London. The 19-year-old, who is currently studying economics and computer science at Stanford University, has helped over 120,000 people in the UK and is now looking to expand to other countries.
What is the story behind donotpay.co.uk?
- When I started driving at 18, the legal driving age in the UK, I began to receive a large number of parking tickets. Noticing that these tickets were sometimes issued unfairly, and the formulaic nature in which they could be appealed, I set up DoNotPay to help a few family and friends appeal theirs automatically. I could never have imagined that it would help overturn 95,000 tickets and save drivers $3 million. It was at that point that I realized I was onto something much bigger than parking tickets, so I decided to create a robot lawyer to help consumers with a wide range of issues.
Is DoNotPay a 'robot lawyer'?
- I don't think it will be arguing in front of the United Nations any time soon, but I still think it is a robot lawyer. Previously, the only way to do many of the tasks that DoNotPay can do, such as claim compensation for a delayed flight, would be to pay an exploitative lawyer hundreds of dollars. The website automates many of these tasks and talks to the user just like a real lawyer. For these reasons, I think the term 'robot lawyer' is justified.
How does DoNotPay work?
- It uses an algorithm that combines word order, keywords and pronouns to first discover what the user is saying. Once it knows the issue, it probes the user for certain details. Then it places the issue into a two page appeal, which can be sent directly to the local authorities.
If the robot is really confused, it will generate a helpful generic message. At that point, I will be alerted on the backend to ensure the issue is not repeated in the future.
How can people avoid paying fines with this website?
- Users can tell the robot lawyer their issue in their own words. Once it knows the problem, it will generate a legally-sound appeal that can be sent directly to the authorities.
How have people responded to the site?
- I've received almost completely positive feedback from the general public. From my experience, legal problems tend to hurt the most disadvantaged in our society. I hope that every person in the world, as a result of technologies such as my robot lawyer, will have the same standard of legal protection as a billionaire. How can anybody react badly to that?
Have you had any issues with the authorities?
- I think the technology scares them hugely and they certainly don't like me. For example, Camden Council, a local authority in London, delayed the parking appeal response time from nine days to 54 days to try and discourage people from using my site to appeal. Ultimately, I don't think there is much they can do, but I am sure they are brainstorming how to stop me.
Would this website work for other countries?
- Yes. In fact, I have plans to expand to New York, Canada and Mexico City by the end of spring. Over $15 billion worth of parking tickets are generated globally and if I can just tackle 10 percent of that, $1.5 billion, then it will be a huge success.
- By Daniel Casillas