According to automotive market research firm SBD, drivers are at their wits’ end with automakers amping up their car’s infotainment system with unwanted apps. The firm discovered apps deemed “essential,” such as navigation and music were wanted, but most other apps were viewed as an unsafe distraction or a convenience drivers could live without.

Apparently GM isn’t worried about customers’ preferences. They’ve got a mobile car app in the works that lets drivers scan the license plate of another vehicle and get connected to the owner’s cell phone. That’s hardy something most drivers would consider “essential.”

Whether you view the app as revolutionary or disturbingly intrusive, this app has the potential to significantly alter stranger interaction, for better or worse.

What’s it All About?
The app is named the DiDi Plate. A driver uses the camera on their Android phone to scan the license plate of another vehicle. The license plate data is sent to a Cloud ID service, which supplies the driver with the cell phone number of the vehicle’s owner. The driver can now send a message to the owner of the vehicle. Surprisingly, the owner of the target vehicle doesn’t even have to download the app for the user to be able to send them a message.

Developers at GM have modified the app to work with Google Glass, so the user only has to stare at the plate to be rewarded with the vehicle owner’s online profile. The app is currently targeting the Chinese market.

Creative Uses for DiDi Plate
How might the Chinese use the controversy sparking app? To ask for a date of course, or at least that’s what GM’s research and development suggests. A GM ad for the app depicts a male driver using DiDi Plate to contact a female driver, and ask her out on a date. She excitedly accepts. Another scenario is a bit more useful: using the app to contact the owner of a vehicle that has you blocked in, and telling them to move their car. What’s the most likely use of the app? To call drivers and inform them their driving is dreadful- no doubt resulting in unsavory verbal exchanges, road rage, curbside fist fights, or worse.

DiDi Plate’s Impact on Stranger Relations
By stripping away the driver’s privacy, the app sets the stage for potentially dangerous stranger interactions. Ramping up the temper of a person operating a vehicle (whether by asking them on a date or telling them their driving is the pits) just isn’t a wise idea. Sure, there’s the possibility of using the app to meet the love of your life or compliment a driver on their supreme road navigation skills, but that’s unlikely.

DiDi Plate is Potentially Dangerous

Moreover, the app is a major diver distraction. And driver distraction equates to increased crashes. In fact, drivers that text while behind the wheel are nearly 25 percent more likely to crash. Those who start chatting with their stranger pal are four times more likely to be involved in an accident.

Computerworld reports automotive manufacturers have already developed and embedded 173 apps into vehicles based in the U.S., most of which aren’t what consumers want. Add DiDi Plate to the pile.

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Photo: Marc Nozell