Society - Written by on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 13:11 - 5 Comments

Tim Bevins
Carpong: Riding with your SMS on

“Have you ever wanted to say something to the driver of the car in front of you?  Maybe tell him he is a lunatic behind the wheel?” Yes.

“Or tell that girl in the car next to you that you think she’s hot?” Sure, but I was 20.

“Tell that guy his brake lights are out or the owner of the parked car that he sucks for taking up two spots?” Yup.

Now I can do all these things in public, with CarPong, “a social network that lets you send messages to other drivers.” Members post messages about other drivers on the Carpong site, using the other driver’s license plate to identify whom they are talking about. If the other driver is following their license plate on Carpong, he or she will receive an email alerting him of comments. Members and non-members can also see what other people are saying about them by typing in their license plate number on the site. It’s anonymous to the extent no one can see what you are writing about anyone else and, per most sites that enable conversation, only your user name and profile are visible. And, of course, it’s free.

So now I can “say” all those things I always said in the car, with the windows closed or perhaps open, at speed or stopped dead in traffic, when I’ve had a bad day, only other people can actually “hear” them now, just not necessarily in real time. (You can see messages in real time if you are using a smartphone while driving, but that is unsafe and illegal in many US states, some Canadian provinces, and many countries.)

Lots of the posts (go here) are exactly what you’d expect: criticism of other people’s driving skills. There is no shortage of bad drivers or people who are inattentive or just make mistakes. If someone saw a crime being committed – such as hit and run – and got the license plate, this might be useful, but I’d imagine they’d call the police first.

Advertisers I saw included an insurance company, Kaplan University (for criminal justice degrees), a local (to me) car dealer, local personal injury lawyers, the Nexus One, and a local law firm specializing in DWI and motor vehicle defense, which indicates that someone is seeing value in being visible on a site that is populated by drivers. If millions of people sign up and use this site, it may become a good place to site your online ad if you provide services or products to this huge population. Note: There were “250,844,644 registered passenger vehicles in the US in 2006,” according to Wikipedia, which cites the US Bureau of Traffic Statistics.

One of the founders, Tony Mastrorio, says he is trying to get towing companies to use Carpong to tell drivers when their cars have been towed and how to find them. (Might work, but why not try Twitter first?)

This looks like fun, but not much more than fun at this point. Let’s hope no one gets angry enough about what’s written about them to try to connect profile with posting. Let’s also hope no one you are writing about has a friend that’s on Carpong and can find you behind them or next to them.

Anyway, I was angry when I left: no one has posted about me.



5 Comments

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Brett
Jan 20, 2010 15:13

My first and last post on this site would probably be, “Hey Buddy, stop carponging while you’re driving, and pay attention.” Good idea, but this probably won’t improve any persons actual driving habits.

Barb Chamberlain
Jan 24, 2010 0:21

How about cyclists and pedestrians using this to report drivers who behave badly and threaten our safety?

My mother (who’s now 88 years old) thought of this idea 40 or so years ago. Her thought was to have something like a readerboard strip on the front and back of your car so you could type in a short message (which she, of course, wanted to constrain to make sure it would be polite) along the lines of “you’re tailgating.”

@BarbChamberlain
@Bike2WrkSpokane

Barb Chamberlain
Jan 24, 2010 0:28

In a car-centric world, everyone thinks of drivers communicating with other drivers.

I’m a year-round bike commuter. While there’s certainly a hassle factor involved in a stop for a cyclist (can’t text and bike quite as easily as texting and driving, and I recommend neither), I’d love to be able to text to a driver who just cut me off or came close to hitting me. Pedestrians could do the same.

After repeated offenses by the same driver, maybe a politely worded letter could go out from DMV with reminders of the laws that apply to all of us as we share the road.

@BarbChamberlain
Co-chair, Bike to Work Spokane
http://www.biketoworkspokane.org
@Bike2WrkSpokane

Tim
Jan 25, 2010 11:27

Barb,
Great thoughts. I never considered the bike to car angle. Excellent idea re: the DMV.
I ride a motorcycle and have similar experiences with people following too closely. I can stop much faster than they can. In the motorcycle safety course that I took 20 years ago, you are taught to slow down gradually is someone is tailgating you are high speed. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s safer to get off the road and let them go by. The only appropriate signal I can give to tailgaters is to wave them by me with my left hand; there are others but I am not usually going to win a road rage incident.
I will keep your idea in mind when the season opens up here in New England in about two months. If police find they are getting texts or calls or even tweets about the same cars, some states with anti-aggressive driving laws might pay attention.
Tim

Tim
Jan 25, 2010 11:32

I just noticed this is titled “Riding with your SMS on” rather than “Driving with your SMS on.” That was an unconscious, perhaps Freudian slip. I must have been thinking about daydreaming about riding my motorcycle. It’s 36 degrees and raining here in New England, so I am not riding anywhere for a while.

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