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Student's defense: My app wouldn't lie

Cited for speeding, 20-year-old tells the judge that his smart phone proves he was driving under the limit.

By doubleace Feb 25, 2011 8:23AM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.

He fought the law and the law … lost.

Sahas Katta, a 20-year-old college student from Davis, Calif., got pulled over and ticketed for driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone, at least according to the cop's radar gun.

Katta didn't believe it, and thought he had a way to prove he was right: He was carrying a Motorola Droid cell phone loaded with My Tracks, an app that uses the GPS and accelerometer in the Droid to measure distance traveled, average speed, average moving speed and max speed. When he accessed the history tab later, the Droid showed that Katta has been traveling at 24 mph. Post continues after video.

At traffic court, Katta, who describes himself as an evangelist/entrepreneur/journalist and founder and CEO of Skatter Tech, a website that reviews gadgets and covers tech news, presented his Droid evidence. He also got the traffic officer to admit he could not recall the last time he had attended radar gun training, or when the device was last calibrated.

The judge immediately dismissed the ticket. It would be nice to say that it was a stunning victory for smart-phone technology, but according to Katta, who told his story on Skatter Tech, the judge "had an unusual statement. (He said) that to avoid any misinterpretations about his ruling, he chose to clarify his decision by citing the lack of evidence on the officer's part. He mentioned that he was not familiar enough with GPS technology to make a decision based on my evidence."

An appeals court in Ohio recently ruled on the same grounds, but in favor of the police, when a driver attempted to show that his GPS records proved he had not been driving 84 in a 65 mph zone. The court said it didn't have enough evidence about how Verizon Wireless' GPS alerts worked in order to throw out the ticket.

But, court decisions based on technicalities aside, smart-phone apps can keep you from getting in trouble with the law. Here are just a few examples:

  • Trapster, an iPhone and Droid app, alerts you as you approach speed traps, red light and speed cameras and police checkpoints, as well as accidents and other roadway hazards. If they don't catch you, you didn't do it.
  • Beat the Traffic, iPhone, alerts you to traffic congestion and shows alternate routes. No need to speed if you have no lost time to make up.
  • Car Locator, Droid, uses GPS and a compass to help you track down your vehicle. This is especially useful in stadium parking lots and monster malls, as well as at 2 a.m. after you've imbibed a tad too much.
  • Rocket Taxi, Droid, finds the nearest cab. Especially useful at 2 a.m. when you realize you won't be driving.
  • CrimeReports, Droid, provides real-time information on neighborhood crime levels. More crime, more cops; 'nough said.

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