Recognising number plates to make drivers’ ‘social network’?

Warning – this is a rambling mental outpouring generated during my drive home today…

Often when driving I muse on the future possibility of seeing an AR overlay on my windscreen telling me a bit about other drivers – principally whether or any of these drivers are nutters who will drive dangerously.  Sometimes it is nice to know that someone is ‘often polite’ – we’d be more likely to reciprocate and let them out of a tricky junction if we knew they often behaved this way.

How could this information be collected?  Assuming we can id the car (or better – the driver) I’d assume we could easily leave a vote for or against a driver.  The UI would need some thinking (verbal might be nice?) but assuming a simple feedback mechanism were possible, you could build some very useful information into this network.

The other obvious problem is how to identify the driver?  I’ve wondered about having iPhones and mobile devices sharing their id locally but that opens privacy worries – what about automatic number plate recognition?  Cars are normally driven by one person so if you tag driving style to a car, you’ve got a fair chance of characterising the driver.

My girlfriend and I share both our cars so the accuracy for us would be 50/50 but I think we drive ‘similarly enough’ that aggregate statistics wouldn’t be too inaccurate.  Maybe I’m wrong.

Future cars are more likely to include cameras for collision avoidance (ok, a camera might be overkill, IR distance measurement may be adequate?) and possibly for insurance claims.  I don’t see why a set of geeks wouldn’t mount a laptop with camera into a car and build their own ad-hoc drivers information network.

Any takers?

Ian is a Chief Interim Data Scientist via his Mor Consulting. Sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London and to hear about his data science thoughts and jobs. He lives in London, is walked by his high energy Springer Spaniel and is a consumer of fine coffees.


  • I think having some kind of accountability on the road would be a great idea and the registration number is the obvious place to start. Best to start it as simple as possible to get as much content as possible. A SMS enabled system would be pretty trivial and allow on-the-spot reports which could then be presented in something like Who's in?
  • Ian, a license plate messaging website for car or driver communication already exists at Platester.