Reporting from San Francisco — Philip Inghelbrecht and other entrepreneurs at the intersection of traffic and technology are giving a new meaning to the phrase "mobile app."
Inghelbrecht is launching a free iPhone application called DriveMeCrazy, with which drivers can rat out their fellow motorists' bad driving. Drivers can speak the license plate of the offending vehicle into their iPhones and share the details on Twitter and Facebook. Registered members can also look up the driver's previous record on DriveMeCrazy.
Inghelbrecht said it's an effort to use "crowdsourcing" to bring greater civility and safety to the nation's roads. And he said he had a special message for Los Angeles, the traffic capital of the United States:
"We believe that bad driving comes from a feeling of motorist anonymity," Inghelbrecht said in an e-mail. "Currently drivers believe only police officers can report them. As a result, there is inadequate 'peer pressure' to avoid aggressive or dangerous driving."
Inghelbrecht compared the instant feedback on your driving to EBay's buyer and seller ratings system "that keeps us honest."
DriveMeCrazy has safeguards against "malicious users" who flag people who were not driving recklessly, he said. It tracks the activity of each user to make sure people are where they claim to be and aren't reporting incidents hundreds of miles apart.
With the app, drivers can also rate one another on how nice they are and on how hot they are. Users can send their e-mail addresses, pictures and messages to connect with other drivers.
DriveMeCrazy Inc., based in San Francisco, plans to submit data to DMVs, insurance companies and local law enforcement agencies, Inghelbrecht said.
State governments are increasingly asking drivers to help enforce traffic laws. The Washington State Department of Transportation has a program called HERO for drivers to report carpool-lane violators.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles had not heard of the DriveMeCrazy app, spokeswoman Jan Mendoza said. "I don't even know how they would give us that data or what we would do with it," she said.
Inghelbrecht said that DMVs would probably not make use of the technology immediately but that he was confident they would eventually.
He also thinks the data could one day help set insurance premiums. DriveMeCrazy plans to sell the data to insurance companies. The app "not only addresses a major consumer pain, from a commercial point of view and business model, it's potent," Inghelbrecht said.