Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Driving 2.0 - Socializing The Freeway

I drive from San Francisco down the Highway 101 to Oracle HQ everyday (sometimes on a Saturday too), I sometimes see people I know on the freeway, I often see the same cars, I certainly see people do (IMHO) idiotic things and I occasionally see people do (IMHO) courteous and considerate things.

So an idea came to me as I passed the ebay commuter bus the other day. Why can't I rate the drivers on the freeway just like I rate sellers and buyers on ebay? You cut me up, you get a thumbs down, I see you driving whilst eating a bowl of cereal thumbs down for you, if you let me change lane safely I can give a thumbs up. Sound like fantasy land?  Well it could be easily done, I can see your registration easily enough I snap a picture of it with my iPhone, character recognition software reads it I have a nice thumbs up or thumbs down option to hit and this is shuttled off to a website where people's rating is displayed. The value really comes into play when we display a person's rating on the car for all to see - I'm thinking of some kind of intelligent display device replacing license plates, then it can show the star rating right there for all to see and heck it might even be able to replace those registration stickers that you have to remember to stick on your plate once a year.

So what goes through your mind as you drive to work? Are you thinking about more important things or do you have some crazy ideas like me that you want to share? Can you think of a better way to apply Web 2.0 principals to the freeways? Sound off in the comments.

UPDATE (9-SEP-08):

Thanks to Caroline for sending me details of a Web 1.0 idea for drivers on Highway 17, that was featured on cnn.


waj said...

iPhone == good, and I like the license plate idea!

I have daydreamed about something similar, and perhaps more immediately usable: a display in your own car which tells you which drivers to watch out for. First pass would be a typical LCD screen, like current navigation systems, while the next generation would be part of the transparent HUD display directly on the windshield and shade their whole car in a yellow-red scale depending on their rating. ;) I imagine the "thumbs-up/down" thumb-buttons on the steering wheel, like existing cruise and audio controls.

Of course, this would need its own high-resolution camera -- let's say embedded at the top of the front and rear windows for a good vantage point -- which means the equivalent iPhone app would only be needed when you are not in the car (bicycling, walking).

The downside? My version is a lot more expensive. So it would probably be offered by luxury brands first (for triple the hardware cost, of course), and eventually more reasonable (but not as nicely integrated) aftermarket systems would start showing up.

Tim said...

What are the consequences of too many thumbs down? Most idiots I remember on the 101 are careening in and out of traffic affecting just about everyone so there would be no escape. Just the knowledge of the impending doom in the form of a cereal eating, lipstick wearing homicidal maniac in your rear view mirror.
Better might be the ability to put points on licenses or an automatic limiter on the engine so you had to take the bus/train that day based on a thumb rating ... some real consequences :0)
Not having to commute anymore is great, I dont miss the 101 or the bridge for that matter. I have found that I need to walk around the block a couple of times to make it feel like Im going to work.

David Haimes said...

@Tim - probably I am being naive in thinking that a low or negative rating from your fellow commuters would shame people into driving better. The consequences do need more thought.

@waj - You have really given this some thought, your system sounds awesome, clearly I have not been thinking big enough - nice work.

John P said...

So, um, I have to wonder: does snapping a photo of a license plate with ones iPhone while driving earn a thumbs-up or thumbs-down in this system? I'm from a relatively small city in the Midwest, and have only had the opportunity to drive the 101 a handful of times in my life, so I'm sure I don't have a broad enough sample to judge the continuum of possible behaviors.

Please forgive the de-lurk for a frivolous comment. I just couldn't resist. :-)

Jake said...

Reminds me of the "Rate your doctor" episode of Scrubs. Unfortunately, highly negative ratings would end up as badges of honor for some, sinking your plan for shame. I can see it now in blog badge form, "Worst Driver in the Bay Area 2008" w00t!

People are so damned competitive. Having driven in 3 of the worst traffic metros (Chicago, the BA, and LA), I wish there were a way to force accountability, e.g. the roadside ring, where you could strap on sumo suits and get out all the road rage.

But I suppose the Digg model would work, just don't introduce a leaderboard.

David Haimes said...

John P,

I should amend my plan to utilize hands free technology, you could choose your own word to trigger a thumbs up/down which has interesting possiblities.

Any de-lurk is good from my point of view, feel free to do it more often.


This ties in with TIm's point about consequences, maybe instead of a car pool lane you have lanes only for drivers with positive ratings.

angela said...

Came across this article in businessweek. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_32/b4095000909813.htm
Right now they have this gear that you can wear on your head and use it to control computer. So imagine that when this head piece senses your anger when you see some ridiculous driver, it'll know which car (location/angle) you're staring at w/flare and the thought can trigger a camera that can point at that location and take a shot of the license plate then upload it to a central location where people can view.
But the only downside is that seems like you need to shave your head in order for the head piece to sense your emotion. Not sure if I want to do that. :-)

David Haimes said...


Interesting idea, I think people's emotions when driving may be strong enough to penetrate hair so you wouldn't need to shave.

On a serious note I think this type of technology could make a huge difference to the lives of people with severe physical disabilities, which I am very excited about.

Meg Bear said...

David, I think it would need to be integrated into the car like the tivo thumbs up/down button instead of an OnStar one. I would have certainly given a thumbs down to the A** who cut me off in a big circa 1978 truck and immediately had the hood fly up so that they could not see where they were going.
I have to be honest I only seem to notice traffic going home, going in I'm pretty much sleep-driving I think.

David Haimes said...

@Meg The TiVo simple interface thumbs up/down would work well. Sleep-driving, hmmm - explains you're eagerness to get to the 300 coffee counter the other morning :)

Scott Robinson said...

I remember seeing, I think in Wired recently, one of their visions of the future where you have this massive amount of info via heads-up display on your windshield ... some of it was big red arrows pointing out the cars with really sketchy drivers--those with lots of tickets/accidents, etc. I like your idea better.