Automotive App of the Week: DriveMeCrazy
Wired.com's Autopia blog calls it "the end of anonymity behind the wheel" and "like having thousands of unmarked police cars and speed cameras on every roadway." The free DriveMeCrazy app for iPhone purports to "help make our roads safer by reporting bad drivers to authorities and insurance companies." But while apps like Fail Driver help those burned behind the wheel vent their frustrations to a crowd-sourced community of users, DriveMeCrazy has much broader and sinister implications since it can
rat you out to inform police and insurers about your motoring misdeeds.
Developer Philip Inghelbrecht, co-founder of the company that brought us the popular Shazam name-that-tune app, is all altruistic in the Autopia post about the DriveMeCrazy App. But he also admits that the data collected by the app is a potential goldmine — and that "the ability for monetization is actually really strong."
And so is the potential for abuse, not to mention driver distraction while a DriveMeCrazy user is snitching on another driver for, say, using their cell phone.
The app is voice-enabled so that a user can "flag" a driver just by saying their license plate number aloud, and also issue a "ticket" to the offender and send them a message. The app is location-aware so that each "flagged" incident can be tracked on a map. Users can search license plates to see if they've received DriveMeCrazy flags, and set up to be automatically notified when someone flags or messages them. Flags can also be posted to Facebook and Twitter to spread the shame, and users can flag "Cute Drivers" so that they can "flirt and connect ... on the road."
While the identity of the driver who is flagged is made public — and the developer, VaVaVroom says it reports flags to DMVs — the flagee remains anonymous. While this seems to open the floodgates for flagrant paybacks by someone with a score to settle, Inghelbrecht said the developer can "quickly detect malicious use" and that multiple flags from the same user of the same driver are ignored. He also said that those flagged will soon be able to leave comments for the users who flag them. Hearing those would be worth downloading the app alone.
Judging from the Autopia post, at least one insurance company, Nationwide, is taking a wait-and-see approach to the app and its info. In an email to Wired.com, the insurer stated, "Because each individual who would observe another driver's performance would have a unique perspective about what might be safe behaviors, it would be difficult to use information reported by the general public."
But the post also points out that for years insurers have based rates and coverage solely on DMV records and "predictive proxy" data such as marital status, zip code, homeownership and such. So having a Yelp-like crowd-sourced pool of info to draw from like the one provided by DriveMeCrazy would prove tempting.
Maybe just as tempting as it is to tell on the person who cut you off — and for them to tell on you.