You may have heard of DoNotPay, the free “robot lawyer” created by 19-year-old British computer whiz Joshua Browder, which has so far helped appeal $4 million worth of parking tickets without the need for expensive legal fees.
Well, Browder is at it again — with a new expansion of the chatbot’s services to help homeless people take advantage of UK laws providing assistance in the form of government housing.
The project started when Browder — currently studying Economics and Computer Science at Stanford University — heard about the plight of a British woman being discharged from hospital, who had been evicted from her home and therefore had nowhere to stay while she recovered. As a result, he decided to update DoNotPay’s online text message-based chat service to help people like her navigate the labyrinthine world of UK local politics.
“I’m working with several lawyers and Centrepoint, the largest charity in the UK for homeless youth, to design a free way for those who face eviction and repossession to claim housing from the government,” Bowder told Digital Trends. “It works by asking questions to ensure the person is eligible before taking down specific details. The eligibility questions include whether you’re a UK citizen and whether you’re legally homeless, for example. It will then use all that information to generate a complete housing letter, which can be sent directly to the government.”
Bowder said this legal document — which takes advantage of the recent advances in natural language processing — will even be structured in such a way as to “maximize [a claimant’s] legal chances” by highlighting the most relevant information.
It’s a powerful tool, which comes at a time when welfare cuts and rising rent have led to a 53 percent increase in evictions in the United Kingdom between 2010 and 2015. It also shows the power in an AI chatbot Bowder admitted was invented to show off to his friends about his ability to appeal parking tickets. “It made me realize that helping people with the law using technology is bigger than just a few traffic fines,” he said.
His ambitions don’t stop there, either. “Currently the bot not only works with unpaid parking tickets and homelessness, but also delayed flights, HIV-related legal issues, and PPI bank charges,” Bowder said. “In the future, I’m also looking to expand it to help Syrian refugees claim asylum in the UK.”