A “robot lawyer” is now available to help Seattle drivers fight their parking tickets.
The free service, called DoNotPay, has helped drivers successfully appeal more than 175,000 tickets valued at roughly $5 million in New York and London, according to its developer, Joshua Browder, a Stanford student majoring in economics and computer science.
“Whenever I try to expand to a new area I always do it based on demand,” said Browder, who spent the week testing his technology in Seattle. “Lots of people are writing (and) saying that Seattle should be the next place.”
Here’s how it works: Drivers visit the DoNotPay and chat with a “robot lawyer” which asks them a series of questions about their parking tickets. Were the signs difficult to read? Was there conflicting information on the parking signs? Was the driver having an emergency? Did their car break down?
DoNotPay.co.uk then drafts a “legally sound letter” which the driver can send to the Municipal Court of Seattle.
The website, which has options for drivers in the U.K. and New York, was scheduled to go live for Seattle drivers around 8 p.m. on Friday evening.
Seattle allows drivers with parking or traffic tickets to have their cases heard by a Magistrate without going to court. The program, called adjudication by mail, lets drivers substitute a written statement for an actual appearance.
A spokesman for the court, Gary Ireland, said they had heard about the technology, but were waiting to see how it played out over the coming weeks and months before commenting.
“I just want to help people who have been kind of wronged by the rules,” said Browder, who is also developing programs in the U.K. to help tenants with evictions and landlord disputes. Another project would help Syrian refugees seek asylum in England.
He says DoNotPay, which launched in 2015, is attracting “huge interest from investors and companies looking to buy the site. However, I’m looking to keep it free.”
Browder says he’s not making any money from the technology, and he considers it a public service.
“The governments don’t like me, but everyone else seems to,” he said.