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Scan license plates so you can text flirty messages to cute drivers with GM’s new app

Texting while driving
Image used with permission by copyright holder

There are plenty of smartphone apps that make it easier to flirt and set up dates with strangers, but GM has an ace up its sleeve that may trump all of them. No, the car manufacturer isn’t muscling its way into the dating game – at least not directly. But its China R&D team has developed an Android app that lets a driver scan a license plate in order to start texting the owner of that car.

The romantic implications of DiDi Plate, a prototype app debuted earlier this month at the Telematics Detroit 2014 conference, are obvious enough, even to GM. A video demo at the conference run by John Du, director of GM’s China R&D Division, even highlighted a scenario where a male driver scans the license plate in front of him in order to see that female driver’s profile. He smoothly proceeds to tell her that he’s going to a mountain and would like someone to go with, to which she responds, “OK, let’s go together.”

However, there are other practical (and less creepy) uses for the app. For instance, the demo showed a driver whose car was blocked in a parking lot scanning the license plate of the inconveniently placed car and asking the owner to move their automobile.

Du added that his team has found a way to make the prototype app work with Google Glass, which would make its uses more dynamic or unsettling, depending on how you view it.

While the application of this identification technology to create what’s essentially a social networking layer weaved into everyday life is intriguing, the worrisome consequences of DiDi Plate are obvious enough: texting while driving, making road rage a conversational affair and invasion of privacy among them. (Du noted that drivers who don’t register for the app would still be contactable.)

The ACLU, which released a study about license-plate reading technology last summer, would certainly be present a strong objection to this type of technology being deployed to the masses in the U.S. It’s worth noting that this is, at least for now, a prototype app made for China, where laws regulating texting and talking on the phone while driving were recently put in place.

Du said a hurdle to the production of DiDi Plate or something like it is GM’s desire to insert apps into a vehicle’s infotainment system. But as dash cams become more ubiquitous, GM’s prototype app is probably a glimpse into the future more than anything else.

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Jason Hahn
Jason Hahn is a part-time freelance writer based in New Jersey. He earned his master's degree in journalism at Northwestern…
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