Imagine being so annoyed with a fellow driver that you just want to give him a piece of your mind. Imagine if you could record their number plate and receive their mobile number in return. A new app, DiDi Plate, could do that.
General Motors, one of the biggest vehicle conglomerates in the United States, have revealed plans to create a smartphone app that will put you in contact with a vehicle owner.
Entering a number plate into the app will send you a text with the vehicle owners mobile number. It would also be possible to scan the number plate and see the phone number directly via Google Glass, an exciting technology currently emerging.
Currently the app, called DiDi Plate, is being tested in the Chinese market. One advert shows one driver using the app to ask another driver out on a date. Of course, creative and more devious uses for the app can be conceived rather easily.
Consider the private number plate industry for example. If you have an attractive personalised number plate on your vehicle, any of the hundreds of people who see your number plate every day could potentially make contact with you. This could be people interested in how much it is worth or people who want to buy it, serious or otherwise. This is a nuisance in itself, but what if it is not even for sale? And what about persistent tryers who do not take No for an answer?
This is a lot different from the old fashioned way the number plate industry used to operate. Leaving a note on a vehicle urging the driver to call you is one thing, but the driver can ignore you or otherwise have the choice to chase up or not. As this app does not have an option to opt out there is a huge issue with privacy.
You can foresee road rage coming into play as well. A driver being cut off on the road could lead to them using the app to send abuse towards the offender. This is a slippery slope that could lead to dangerous altercations, not to mention harassing behaviour.
There is the safety issue of using a mobile phone while driving. Texting while driving is already considered a dangerous driving offense in the UK and increasingly in the United States. It has already been revealed that Google Glass will be treated as a mobile device and will be illegal to drive with.
Not to say an app like this does not have some uses, such as quickly capturing the details of a wreckless driver or someone committing a crime, but an idea like this is unlikely to ever be launched in this country. Despite being developed by General Motors and already built into some vehicles I doubt it will make it out of the factory.
In the UK it is a none-starter due to how protective of personal information the DVLA is. As this app does not appear to have official backing the only way UK driver information would make it to the app would be if private individuals voluntarily gave their details. There are already number plate-based social networking sites that allow this already though.
Moreover drivers across the pond are unlikely to be happy about their details being given out without their permission. The app will likely meet huge opposition before its wider release, and ultimately be killed by Government intervention especially due to the safety issue.
It is an interesting development either way and it opens up possibilities going forward about ease of access to driving information. A DVLA-endorsed app allowing drivers to report infractions or request other information would be hugely popular, though still not something that should be used while driving. For now though, lets see how the market in China and the US react to this technology.