Michael Lee envisioned his app as a way to warn neighbors and strangers alike that their cars are about to be towed as a result of limited parking hours on the streets of Los Angeles.
But PL8CHAT, which allows you to text drivers via their license plates, could do so much more. We immediately thought of the satisfaction that would result from being able to tell a driver what a complete idiot he is. Imagine being able to inform someone about the rules of the road or just about plain parking etiquette.
That too is possible, Lee says, that too.
PL8CHAT hit the App Store for iOS devices a few months ago, but Lee says it's still in beta and still being developed for Android, which could make the app available on that platform in the next few weeks. It's free.
Why aren't we all using this already? Lee acknowledges that the main hurdle for PL8CHAT right now is getting everyone on it: Unfortunately, you can't text that crappy driver unless she has it too.
But once we all get with this program, oh boy, this will be fun — especially in car-crazed L.A.
“It's personal car communication,” says Lee, a 31-year-old jack-of-all-trades who's a manager at Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood.
Besides chewing out your fellow motorists (and, if you're going to do that, you should also be prepared to take criticism, too), you could theoretically text people whose cars are for sale, let a valet know you want your car and, most importantly, pull over and send a message to a hottie you spotted in traffic.
“It could be used to flirt,” Lee says. “But you can block a person, too.”
He's working on small stickers that motorists can use to inform fellow drivers that they're using PL8CHAT (just plug in a license plate number to text). Lee is also pondering whether or not magnets would work for users who want to let the world to reach them on PL8CHAT.
How will he make money from it? It's not yet clear. Lee wants to focus on populating the app with users first.
After that, he says, maybe PL8CHAT could get a piece of car sales conducted through the app. Or maybe it will get a percentage from people who want to tip strangers who had warned them of impending $63 tickets.
“The direction the app will take,” Lee says, “—I don't even know yet.”