Can Google MyTracks get you out of a speeding ticket?

February 22, 2011: 2:32 PM ET

A My Tracks user was given a ticket for driving over the speed limit.  His Android phone disagreed. So did the judge.

Here's an interesting story of how an Android smartphone was able to help a man get out of a speeding ticket.  Sahas Katta was driving through a 25 mph school zone when he was pulled over for speeding.  The officer said he was going 40.  He took the ticket but later discovered that his Droid was recording his GPS data over time with a Google (GOOG) app called MyTracks.

The app said that during the time the phone was recording, he never exceeded 26 mph, well under what the officer had cited him for.  He decided to fight the ticket.

I decided to write down an account of the entire situation just a few days later and even exported the data from my phone to Google Docs so I would not lose or forget any important details. I even came across an ongoing Sonoma County Superior Court case regarding the accuracy of GPS devices and radar guns. I saved a few articles to back my claim that my account of the situation was debatable with the evidence from my smart phone.

MyTracks example display

When it came time for his day in court, Katta questioned the officer about the radar gun he was using and then presented his data:

I then presented my time stamped GPS data with details about my average moving speed and maximum speed during my short drive home. Both numbers were well within the posted speed limits.

I also made it clear to the judge that I had no other prior driving records or violations. After a lengthy pause, the judge asked how I obtained the GPS tracking information. I provided a detailed explanation about my new awesome smart phone, the application in use, and how I exported the data. After questioning whether the data was reliable, I mentioned the in progress Sonoma County Superior Court trial regarding the same matter about the credibility of both technologies.

The judge found him not guilty but was careful not to include his GPS phone information in the judgement.

It isn't clear how accurate his GPS readings were and how often the phone took a reading (he could have accelerated to 40 and then stopped between readings?).  It's also possible to falsify the data that the GPS read at a later time,  so it is doubtful that this type of information would be admissible in courts.

However, it is an interesting tale of technology helping one man get out of a traffic ticket.

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

Email Seth
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.