CurbTXT is a new service being tried out in San Francisco, where parking can be a considerable challenge. It allows concerned citizens to let motorists know if they have parked improperly or if they have other issues through a text message.
CurbTXT gives Samaritans another option
In the past, good Samaritans who saw an improperly parked vehicle, or one that maybe left its light on, had the option of leaving a note or waiting for the owner to return. Either way, by the time the message was received it may have been be too late to avoid a ticket, a tow, a dead battery or even damage requiring the services of BJ Auto Repair, or some other mechanic.
But a new start-up seeks to give them another option.
Since CurbTXT is text-based, no app or smartphone is needed — just a cell phone. At this time the service is only available in San Francisco, but the start-up hopes the idea will catch on and spread.
How it works
Users of the free service sign up on the CurbTXT site, registering their cell number and vehicle license plate number. They are then given a sticker to affix to their car, letting others know that they are registered. Then, other users of the service can simply text your license plate to let you know if you’ve left your lights on or are blocking their driveway.
Helping or harassing?
Whether that message is then perceived as helpful or hostile depends on the beholder, one assumes.
Andrew Sotzing, the co-founder of CurbTXT, told NBC, “While most of the CurbTXT’s people send fall under the utility category, ‘Hey. You left your lights on!’ or ‘You’re about to get a street cleaning ticket!,’ we always get a kick out of the occasional neighbor-to-neighbor car compliment, most recently: ‘Nice ride ’”
What the company’s press does not address, however, is its potential for being used to harass or even stalk other motorists. I could easily see it being used as a new way to express road rage, for instance.
Although the service is intended to be used to report issues after a car is parked, what is to stop angry motorists from texting, “You cut me off, jerk” while still in motion? Sure, texting behind the wheel is illegal, but that doesn’t stop thousands from doing it every day.
Future expansion of service?
Sotzing would not disclose the volume of messages already sent through the service. He said, though, that “we’re growing very quickly and hoping to expand into other major markets in the coming months.” He says he has also received interest from as far away as Germany and Australia.
However, as reported in CNET, Evernote blog posted that only “dozens” of texts have been sent using the service since last fall, when it debuted.
My take on this, for anybody who cares, is that it creates more potential for abuse than any real help. I believe it could create more problems than it solves. Plus, I don’t think motorists will be beating down the door to sign up for a service that allows strangers to criticize their driving.