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A technology company says that a "robot" attorney powered by artificial intelligence will fight a customer's traffic ticket in a court hearing next month.
The technology, which is available to consumers via the smartphone application called DoNotPay, has reportedly been programmed to listen to arguments during a court hearing and formulate responses in real time for a defendant.
DoNotPay was initially launched by Stanford University student Joshua Browder in 2015 to automatically provide users with templates to contest parking tickets and unnecessary fees, according to The Mercury News. In 2020, following the release of OpenAI's open source programming interface for its its language-processing AI GPT-3 — the technology behind the consumer-focused ChatGPT — DoNotPay began to use AI to help users apply for certain green cards, fix credit reports and request cancellation fee refunds from Lyft and Uber, among other topics, the New Scientist reported.
It has raised $27.7 million from venture capital firms, including Crew Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, CBS News reported.
Browder announced last week that its proprietary DoNotPay AI would debut for the first time in a courtroom in February. He did not specify who would be represented by the app or in what court, but did tweet that it was to contest a speeding ticket.
"On February 22nd at 1:30PM, history will be made," he wrote on Twitter. "For the first time ever, a robot will represent someone in a U.S. courtroom. DoNotPay A.I will whisper in someone's ear exactly what to say. We will release the results and share more after it happens. Wish us luck!"
USA Today reported that a second defendant is slated to use the app for their traffic ticket, but will do so remotely via Zoom, and that the company is considering taking on an eviction case as well. Browder said that, of the 300 court cases considered for DoNotPay's first courtroom appearance, only two were feasible.
That is because only some courts allow defendants to wear Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, the precedent that is allowing Browder to debut his technology in those courts.
"It's within the letter of the law, but I don't think anyone could ever imagine this could happen," Browder told USA Today. "It's not in the spirit of law, but we're trying to push things forward and a lot of people can't afford legal help."
Roughly 80 percent of low-income individuals cannot afford legal representation, according to the American Bar Association. But many courtrooms don't allow the use of cell phones or Bluetooth headsets, while some states require that all parties in court consent to be recorded — which would rule out the use of the app.
"If these cases are successful," Browder told the paper, "it will encourage more courts to change their rules."
Browder has acknowledged that there are risks to trusting AI with legal defense. However, he said the company has taken steps to avoid issues with AI exaggerating facts or being "too polite" by responding to everything the judge says, including rhetorical statements, he told USA Today. If the robot lawyer loses the case, he said, DoNotPay will cover any fines.
In December, DoNotPay used its proprietary chat to negotiate a bill with Comcast's automated chatbot, Browder said in a Tweet.
In total, the company says that its app has helped settle 2 million customer service disputes and court cases on behalf of individuals and organizations.
Browder tweeted in early January that any defendant or lawyer willing to trial the app before the Supreme Court would be paid a whopping $1,000,000 by his company.
The Supreme Court currently bars "electronic devices of any kind (laptops, cameras, video recorders, cell phones, tablets, smart watches, etc.)" from the courtroom while it is in session.
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