Social Networking for Drivers?

With the extreme popularity of social networking, it should come as no surprise that a San Diego company has developed an application to connect people to each other-while they're driving. Bump.com promises that drivers across the country can connect to each other using e-mails, texts and voice mail, all through a scan of their license plates.

Security cameras on the roads take photos of license plates. The program scans and recognizes license plate numbers and matches them with e-mail accounts, mobile phones and location systems so that people are able to communicate. Even if an individual has no interest in being a part of Bump.com's network, his or her license plate will be scanned if its image is captured. The program will then assign it an identity. If the individual doesn't sign up for the network, he or she won't receive any text or voice messages.

Those who want the service will pay a nominal yearly fee. The initiative will operate as a membership program, offering discounts and promotions based upon the individuals driving location.

Will a Social Networking App Reduce Driver Safety?

Keeping in mind that distracted drivers can create a negative impression, owner and CEO Mitch Thrower explained that the program disables texting while the car is in operation and sends all messages to voice mail. This does not seem to take into account the prospect of an individual taking attention away from the road to text the message in the first place, perhaps encouraging distracted driving, which is dangerous as well as illegal in many states.

While some could be concerned with privacy issues since the program compiles so much personal information, Thrower assures that the information retrieved is kept private and will not be provided to insurance companies. A filter also weeds out obscene messages and those that appear linked to road rage.

While the application might serve a useful function, like allowing drivers to warn others of dangerous road conditions, there is a potential for the service to be used for nefarious purposes. For instance, Arizona law enforcement officials complain that drivers already use tools such as Twitter and text messaging to warn each other about DUI checkpoints, possibly increasing the number of drunk drivers on the road, which will only contribute to the problem of drunk driving accidents. While Thrower believes the technology can help law enforcement track down criminals, there might be greater potential for opportunistic criminal behavior using the application, which, unlike other social networks, allows immediate and potentially personal face-to-face communication.