The goods and bads of Bump, which links you to your license plate is a new service that allows users to communicate with each other on the road by sending messages to each other, via license plates.

A company named Bump took to the stage at the DEMO conference in Silicon Valley this week, offering a peek at technology that ties you to your license plate number and gives "mobile" communication a whole new meaning.

Credit: PR Newswire

At first glance, the concept is scary, creepy and slightly disturbing - the ability for drivers to communicate with each other by text or email simply by sending a message to a license plate number. Sure, has included some safety features, such as allowing users to reject or block certain messages and keeping names anonymous. And, of course, the service is opt-in only. The user has to enter - and verify - the plate number.

There's a good profile of the company and its background by Dean Takahashi over at Venture Beat, who also explores some of the marketing usages - such as fast-food restaurants capturing information about favorite menu items as you roll through the drive-thru.

As a native Californian who learned how to drive on the Bay Area freeways, I immediately imagined new scenarios where road ragers send each other nasty messages. But then, as I started to hear more about it, I envisioned a number of other legitimate uses for the technology. So, I put together a short list of good things and bad things about this sort of technology - and I'll let you decide which is which.

If you have more for the list, please add them in the talkbacks

  • You could let a driver know that he left his cup of coffee on the roof of the car. Or that his turn signal on. Or that he has a low tire.
  • You could send a note to the cute girl in the next lane to see if she's single and free for dinner.
  • You could tell that idiot who's zig-zagging in and out of traffic to cool his heels already - or something to that effect.
  • Rental car companies could register their cars to monitor the driving habits of their customers, assuming others rat them out for bad driving.
  • Government agencies, utility companies and commercial businesses, such as electricians or repair services, can monitor complaints about poor drivers (an online version of those "How's My Driving?" bumper stickers).
  • Fast food companies could track customers menu favorites and target them with marketing messages.
  • A good samaritan might warn you that the time on your meter has expired and that a parking enforcement officer is in the area - or a tow truck.
  • Someone could tell you if they witnessed another person hit your car in a parking lot - and then flee the scene. Or, maybe the honest person who hit your car could send you a note, instead of leaving one on your windshield.
  • Parents could gain some insight on how a teen driver is behaving on the road - again, assuming others rat him out.


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