Jewish Stanford student Joshua Browder presents on how chatbots like DoNotPay can make life better.

Teenage Whiz Creates Bot To Fight Unfair Parking Tickets — and It’s Winning!

A Jewish teenager from London felt something was terribly unjust about senior citizens and other needy people being hit with unjust parking tickets.

So he created a crusading ‘chatbot,’ an internet tool based on articial intelligence, to fight the powers that be.

Joshua Browder, the creator of DoNotPay, told the Forward the elderly and disabled, more likely to make a parking mistake, were getting fined nearly 120 British pounds — half of the state pension for one week. The government shouldn’t be taxing the most vulnerable populations for simple mistakes, he said.

“People were being deprived of their livelihoods,” Browder said.

DoNotPay works by responding to user messages — for free — with simple questions that help guide it in filing an appeal on the user’s behalf. In the year since its creation, Browder’s app has taken on nearly 250,000 tickets and won $4 million in the U.K. alone, he said.

Unlike an app, a chatbot can exist on different messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. While Browder’s chatbot currently exists on his website DoNotPay.co.uk, he said on Twitter he is exploring integration with messaging platforms.

In order to test the ticket system, Browder started collecting parking tickets for protesting purposes, ending up with about 30 by the age of 18.

“Once I knew there was a flaw, I wanted to test it,” he said. “Admittedly, I’m not the best driver, so some were legitimate. But I only appealed the ones for testing purposes.”

Browder, who said being Jewish is a core part of his identity, started teaching himself to code before the age of online coding tutorials — at first just by copying what he saw in YouTube videos. One of Browder’s first apps, an unofficial iPhone app for British sandwich shop Pret A Manger he made at age 13, became so popular that the restaurant officially adopted the app.

But Browder thought coding could be used to do much more.

“The thing I really love about tech and coding is that you can have a big impact and be anyone,” he said. “So I reached out to human rights organizations offering to code for them and about six came back asking for an app.”

Browder, who was interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning, started building his parking chatbot last year while at Stanford. He said that while he has mostly worked on his chatbot by himself, many of his professors and lawyers from Stanford’s law school have provided advice and help.

In order to teach his chatbot to understand common parking ticket issues, Browder created a parking appeals website where he received more than 3,000 emails from people asking how to appeal their ticket. Using the emails as a database to teach his chatbot to recognize problems, he trained it to ask for basic information to file an appeal or assist the user.

Though it started in the Britain, DoNotPay is now open for business for angry parking ticket recipients in New York City, and is slated to open in Seattle as well.

Browder said he also plans to create a developer platform to help train his chatbot for other types of legal battles.

“I was bombarded on Twitter with requests for different kinds of laws, but I’m just one person,” Browder said. “Creating a platform lets people contribute to the knowledge of the bot.”

DoNotPay has already begun assisting users in filing compensation claims for missed flights, and Browder is developing a chatbot to assist those with HIV in understanding their rights.

Contact Drew Gerber at gerber@forward.com or on Twitter, @dagerber

Author

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Teenage Whiz Creates Bot To Fight Unfair Parking Tickets — and It’s Winning!

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close