Philip Inghelbrecht knows a thing or two about writing successful apps; he was, after all, one of the creators of the Shazam music recognition app. His latest venture, an iPhone app called DriveMeCrazy, leaves me both intrigued and horrified. The concept is simple, but the implications are anything but. Download the app (it’s free), and you can report anyone you see for “bad driving”, simply by recording a voice tag of their license plate and completing a “traffic ticket” form. If you’ve got time to kill, you can also look up how many times the same driver has been reported to DriveMeCrazy, and for what offenses. Want to meet the cute blond in the car next to you? Flag her plate, give her a five heart rating, record a message and if she’s a DriveMeCrazy member she’ll get in touch with you. Unless, of course, she correctly identifies you as “that creepy stalker dude” she sees on her commute. If you’re feeling magnanimous, you can also flag someone as a good driver, but I doubt I’d ever use that feature myself.
Sounds like harmless fun, right? Not exactly, since DriveMeCrazy will also compile data and send it to local DMVs and insurance companies. That’s not a big deal right now, since I can’t think of a single state DMV that will do anything other than ignore the data. Likewise, insurance companies can’t touch it since it’s not “official” data; the danger comes when both the DMV and the insurance companies start analyzing the data to “look for repetitive patterns”. If and when that day comes, how would you like to get traffic tickets and higher insurance rates, courtesy of an anonymous driver you happened to piss off?
Since the app is open to all, anyone can flag you as a bad driver. Not driving fast enough for the guy behind you? He can flag you as a bad driver. Driving too fast for the guy in front of you? He can flag you, too, if he can read your license plate. Maybe the person next to you doesn’t like blue cars, so they happen to report that you were driving drunk, speeding in and out traffic at 30 mph over the limit, after sending a busload of orphaned children off a bridge and into a river. DriveMeCrazy claims they’ll vet the data to discredit anyone who abuses the app, and will remove any “malicious” flags from your data. Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel any better.