B-G-B (Bonus Guest Blog): Social Media and Fuzzbusters

RyanBGBGuest Blogger: Ryan Carlos

As an interactive developer with both remarkable skills and infinite patience, Ryan Carlos makes more things work in less time than most anyone at Element 79.  But beyond his mad skills in Flash and Javascript, PHP, SQL, ASP and all sorts of other mystifying abbreviations, Ryan also builds stuff.  Perhaps it’s the Purdue engineer in him, but Ryan can make physical stuff like wearable remote control gloves and other hack-tastic engineering feats usually reserved for those kinds of movies where a band of clever, spunky underdogs brings down a corrupt powerhouse.  Ryan’s developed sites, interfaces and experiences for 3Com, Four Points Digital, Whittmanhart and Machete and somehow also makes time to contribute to Co-Op Image Group, a non-profit after school program for kids.

I recently won tickets to some theme parks in Orlando, Florida.  My girlfriend and her brother have never visited Disneyworld and they immediately thought, “Road trip!”  Great, I was thinking about flying from Chicago, but driving isn’t too bad and its a trip I’ve done many times.

As we were driving, we noticed cars were getting pulled over left and right by police. You do tend to see more cops pulling people over during Holiday weekends.  Growing up, I was all about radar detectors, and back then, they quickly evolved to include all the different bands cops use to detect speeding cars.  But then laser technology came along and it seemed the cops had the tool they needed to catch speeding cars instantly, from really far away.  It’s been over fifteen years since I last used a radar detector and it seems nothing has really changed except that the cops still have the advantage because of lasers. That’s probably why I don’t have one now. I’m not sure they even work in preventing a speeding ticket anymore…

copsThe problem these days is that once you’re hit with a laser its too late. Cops have gotten good at tagging you first before you even see them.  They know your speed and what car you’re driving before you even get a chance to slow down and say hello to a pricey speeding ticket. Sure, you can fight it in court, but what good will that do when your court date is in Florida on Wednesday morning and you live in Chicago?

Radar detectors have started to evolve by including GPS and notifying you of speed and light cameras, manually marking speed traps, and false alarm areas. Some place sensors along the bumpers of your car to tell you where the cop is tagging you from, for example, “front right.”  But none of these solves the problem of laser detection.  Again, once you’re hit with a laser, it’s too late to slow down.

But what if someone re-invented radar detectors today with the help of social media?  Could this solve the laser problem?

It might…  How many times have you seen a car speeding past you and then, five minutes later you see that same car pulled over by a cop for speeding.  What if his radar detector could let your radar detector know that a cop is in the vicinity long before you’re within laser range?  We already share this type of information in a primitive way every time we flash our “brights” to oncoming traffic to warn them of a cop we just spied setting up a speed trap.  If your radar detector communicated its location when a laser tagged them, that location would get increasingly hotter with other cars and their detectors, giving other users a reason to believe a cop is really there, and it’s not a false alarm.

This user-generated content (UGC) would be invaluable to determining where these speed traps are located in real-time.  They would provide you enough time to slow down before you get in the laser’s range, making detectors more useful in preventing speeding tickets.  In essence, every car ahead of you could be potentially clearing a path and saving you a speeding ticket.

Any unlucky person who gets pulled over could also notify everyone what is happening, that a cop is now occupied writing a ticket, and maybe the speed trap doesn’t exist for the moment.  It could be as simple as them hitting a button on their detector to let everyone else know.

For those that don’t have a radar detector, a mobile app version could exist. It might be a simple mapping program to get directions, but it could also tap into the same data and map out the “user-generated hot spots” along the way.

Given the current radar detector’s weaknesses, people who are serious about avoiding tickets are going other routes, even illegal routes like license plate shields to jam or delay laser readings, and stealth technology or cloaking devices to make your car invisible to laser monitoring.

But with a simple, creative use of social media, a lot could be accomplished with today’s technology.  To me, this seems to be the next evolution of radar detectors. All these new GPS features coming out are great, but it doesn’t solve the specific problem of avoiding laser radar detection early, and avoiding speeding tickets.

By Ryan Carlos, Interactive Developer, Element 79