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Meet the College Student Who Built a Chatbot to Fight Parking Tickets

Updated August 9, 2016
by Carson Kohler
Junior Writer
Donotpay

By the time he was 18, London native Joshua Browder had garnered 30 parking tickets.

“When I started driving, I thought I knew everything about the roads, and I didn’t,” Browder, now 19, says. “It was a combination of my carelessness and the unfair nature of the tickets.”

The self-taught coder decided to take matters into his own hands. So he created DoNotPay, the world’s first robot lawyer programmed to fight parking tickets. Then he started getting tickets on purpose to test his new system.

Thanks to DoNotPay, he ended up paying only 14 of those parking tickets. And now, his program helps other drivers fight their tickets, too.

DoNotPay Helps Drivers Fight Parking Tickets — For Free

In nine months, DoNotPay has helped appeal more than 160,000 tickets in the United Kingdom, worth about $4 million, according to Browder. And it’s won 64% of those appeals.

And most importantly to Browder, DoNotPay is free.

“Parking tickets are issued to rake in money for local governments, but that’s what taxes are for,” he says. “Some of the most vulnerable people in society are getting tickets, and that’s not fair.”

How DoNotPay Works

DoNotPay is a chatbot, which is a program that automatically generates an appeal to your parking ticket based on the way you answer a few quick questions.

To get started, visit donotpay.co.uk and sign up or log in. The program will then guide you through simple multiple choice questions.

Where was the ticket issued?

Which of these best describes why you shouldn’t receive a parking ticket?

For the second question, you’ll select an answer from 12 options ranging from “The parking bay was too small” to “Missing details on the ticket” to “I was travelling [sic] to the hospital urgently.”

Answer a few more questions until it’s time to type in your name, citation number, street of offense and the offense itself. Then click “generate appeal.”

The bot chugs through the information you’ve entered and generates either an appeal for you to copy and paste into your city’s online form or a printable version you can mail.

It all depends on jurisdiction, but, either way, you’ll receive directions as to what to do next.

DoNotPay Comes to the United States

Browder still can’t believe the number of people who are using his little coding project — which is why he plans to expand.

“It’s amazing how much parking tickets anger people,” Browder says. But he never expected his side project — something to show off to his friends — to explode and help an exponential number of people.

Last month, the chatbot launched in New York City.

It’s a bit of a test to see if his system and handle the “biggest kind of crookery,” as Browden describes New York.

“If it can work there, it can work anywhere,” he says.

He plans to debut DoNotPay in Seattle later this year and says Los Angeles is on the horizon.

It takes Browder two to three months to master the parking regulations in each city and devise the code to work with them. Luckily, he now has many lawyers on his side who want to help out in their time off.

Plus, DoNotPay Isn’t His Only Chatbot

In addition to the parking ticket system, Browden has created an interface to help people with flight delay compensation — also for free.

Browden also devised a system that allows those who are HIV-positive to prove they’ve disclosed that information to their partner (since not doing so can be punishable by law in several countries, as well as 35 states).

He’s also exploring an interface to help refugees navigate foreign legal systems.

But these are all just side jobs, really. He’s not even getting paid.

Browden plans to start his second year at Stanford University in the fall. Naturally, he’s studying economics and computer science.

Talk about an overachiever.

Your Turn: Have you ever fought a parking ticket? What happened?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.

by Carson Kohler
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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