In a stunning display of legal acuity a sole, tireless lawyer has beaten back 160,000 parking tickets on both sides of the Atlantic since last fall.
The "lawyer" actually doesn't tire at all, because it's a chatbot.
DoNotPay.co.uk is the brainchild of Joshua Browder, a 19-year-old British student at Stanford. Browder told the New York Post that he decided to build the tool after getting a series of parking tickets in London.
"I didn’t want to pay it, so I become an expert in parking tickets,” he explained to the Post. “I started doing it for friends and family, and then I decided it would be a good school project, so I made the website.”
Apparently it's worked quite well. Browder said that the bot has beaten 160,000 of the 250,000 submitted London parking tickets in an interview with VentureBeat. In New York the bot's success rate is slightly lower, but still pretty high: Browder says in his talk with the Post that of 24,000 contested tickets challenged through the bot in the city, 10,000 have been appealed successfully.
Assuming that those tickets are on average $60 each, this bot has collectively saved people (and deprived U.K. and New York City authorities of) around $10 million.
At the moment DoNotPay can appeal parking tickets in the U.K. and New York City. It can also tries to get compensation for flights within the EU that are delayed for more than three hours, a newer feature.
The bot's functionality is pretty straightforward: you put in your email, tell it whether your ticket was issued, and it asks a series of short questions to determine how you might be eligible for an appeal.
It may also simply provide a menu of the reasons why you can appeal within your jurisdiction.
After that it takes the user through the information that needs to be filled out, and generates the appeal for them to print and send.
DoNotPay bills itself as "the first robot lawyer," (a distinction some might dispute) and if the numbers Browder cites are for real it's probably the world's most efficient robot lawyer.
But what's cool about DoNotPay is not the bot itself, which is a simple, relatively straightforward piece of software, but the use case. It's taking a task that's both costly and a pain in the ass, and simplifying it through what's basically a series of menus.
At the end of the day, it's not the bot that's amazing but Browder himself. He boned up on the minutiae of parking appeals, and turned it into software. A great bot, maybe not, but a really good service.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org