A Robot Lawyer Helped People Get Out of 160,000 Parking Tickets

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Scott Barbour/Getty Images / Scott Barbour/Getty Images

If you bother to show up in court, you’ve got a fair chance of making that hefty parking fine go away. In some U.S. cities, you’ve got as much as a 50-50 shot, and in the UK, as many as 60 percent of contested parking tickets are successfully appealed. But you can also make a strong case without ever having to leave your house, much less speak to another human. A robot will do it for you, and it will probably win, according to The Guardian.

As we reported in January, a UK-based chatbot called DoNotPay is designed to answer legal questions and generate appeals. It has now successfully contested 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York over the last 21 months, about a 64 percent success rate.

Built by Stanford University sophomore Joshua Browder, the artificial intelligence platform scans legal advice gathered by the self-taught coder and, with a few inputs from the user, can create a basic appeal claim. So far, it’s taken on 250,000 cases worth a total of $4 million in parking fines.

This isn’t the first time technologists have tried to take on the parking fine system. In 2014, an app called Fixed debuted as an automated ticket contester, but a subsequent investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that it wasn’t as effective as showing up in person. Some cities, including L.A. and San Francisco, later blocked the app from accessing the ticketing websites that it needed to function.

While for some people a parking fine is a minor inconvenience, in many cities, minor violations and fines like parking tickets disproportionately affect the poor, who often can't take off work to head to the courthouse. A Las Vegas investigation in 2015 found that low-income neighborhoods shouldered a disproportionate number of parking tickets on the area's residential blocks, and unpaid parking tickets can often lead to driver's license suspensions, pushing those who can't afford to pay even further into poverty. And because many cash-strapped municipalities gain revenue from parking tickets and traffic violations, police departments give out a lot of tickets.

Browder plans to expand DoNotPay to assist with other legal troubles, including being compensated after delayed flights, navigating foreign legal systems as a refugee, and knowing your rights as an HIV positive individual. The site already has a function where you can prove that you’ve disclosed your HIV positive status to a sexual partner, for places where that’s legally mandated.

[h/t The Guardian]

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