By on October 3, 2010 Who BUMPed Me? from BUMP on Vimeo.

Cars may be battling with communication technology for the hearts and minds of the youth, but at least we’ve got a handle on the downsides of our internal-combustion (or, increasingly, not) friends. Cost, pollution, risk and overall coolness deficits can, given a responsive industry, be battled. On the other hand, we’re only just learning about the endless creepiness that comes from limitless connectivity (stop me when I start sounding like someone who just enjoyed a week away from the internet). Take, for example, the latest attempt to fuse social media with cars: Bump.

Giving voice to the attitude that is currently driving cars out of favor with the young,’s “About Us” section states that

BUMP was born in August 2009 when we realized that for many, time spent in the car is wasted time.

Which should be enough to tell you that Bump’s pitch at a “younger, hipper, AAA” is not based on an intrinsic love of cars. Sure, you can “rate” drivers who perform stupid maneuvers like driving off with the gas pump, or alert a fellow motorist that his lights are still on. But more likely, we’re looking at an opportunity to make every commute a chance to be propositioned by a creep in a Grand Cherokee.

Or, of course, to be watched and relentlessly marketed at. Even the most asinine startups gotta make money. As Bump’s founder Mitchell Thrower tells Wired

“It works like a cookie,” said Thrower, except it uses the license plate as a physical marker for a camera that can read up to five plates per second at up to 150 miles per hour. That technology allows for automated check-ins at hotels and sporting events and easy rental car returns, but it also is helpful for marketers. “It can tie back the owner of the vehicle to their purchase patterns,” Thrower said.

The idea being that, as with Facebook, Google, and most other online tools, marketers can eventually track your every move and purchase, and bombard your cellphone with “special offers” targeted at your license plate’s “profile.” It’s a wet dream for the “social media experts,” martketingbots and “post-privacy” lechers that seem to make up such a large percentage of modern society, but it’s a far cry from the freedom, involvement and romance of the road once promised by the automobile. Thanks, but no thanks.

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15 Comments on “Social Networking For Cars: As Creepy As It Sounds...”

  • avatar

    Christ.  After watching that  Bump commercial, I expected someone to announce at the end of it, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    Oh, Excellent. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a cute girl in a car and been unable to harrass her.

    Big Brother is coming, just not form where we thought he would. This is just one step away from the situation in Minority Report where corporations scan your eyes to ID you and then market to you constantly. On the bus, walking down the street, in your own home.

    Does anyone else find it scary that if you have a car with GPS navigation, it means that the company that provides that service can pinpoint your exact location at any time?

    • 0 avatar

      “the company that provides that [GPS] service can pinpoint your exact location at any time”

      No, they can’t. What you have in your car is just a receiver, not a transmitter. No one can track you by your GPS navigation system.

    • 0 avatar

      Your cell phone, on the other hand, can be traced at any time it’s on.

    • 0 avatar

      Mr Gary those were my thoughts too.  I mean those scenes of Tom Cruise getting that super-targeted advertising, while intriguing from a technological point of view, were very invasive & downright creepy.
      Social-Drive thru anyone?

  • avatar

    My  god that is creepy!
    Imagine the intrusion.
    Next worse creepy invention is the ability of some ass poping up on a navigation screen!

    But I should be one of the chosen few.  What I could say to the idiot in front.
    If not this, how about a paint guns!?

    I had some white trash teenage punk, with his front seat set way back low, ran a stop sign in front of me.  I was able to avoid the collision and get off a horn blast, but all he did was stick his hand out and flip me off.

    Normally this deserved a chase down, but zoloft seems to have tempered my give a damn.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the article and for the thoughts. Would love to hear any recommendations directly, in fact, this is a request for more help and feedback.

    Working on the launch of – backstage interview here:

    – A few quick updates from the product team at bump: * our smart phone apps disable texting when driving (so voice only), * we are creating a safety network for drivers to know when their car got towed, and to also report bad driving, (or good driving) or to send messages safely via voice.

    We are also launching a consumer safety connection to amber alerts, earthquake, traffic alerts, free towing, and weather alerts in the system. We are working with a leading expert on road rage to develop product features that diffuse road tension, and prevent accidents. In our next release, we have a profanity filter, a speak-and-listen system, among many other safety features. Our nationwide phone number launches in October, where you can simply call and leave messages for any car, so it is, indeed, an 800-how-am-i-driving for the entire country – it uses speech recognition and is hands free.

    We’re just one of the companies in the space, and perhaps the first one you heard of – there are close to 20 other companies currently doing license plate messaging across the country – check them out, as well. (if you don’t want to dig, email me and I will send you a list). At however, we want to be the company to do this the right way, the safe way (we are the only one of the 20 companies implementing these safety features).

    I sincerely want to listen and address our users concerns and change the product in every way possible to make it safe. Let me know your thoughts and I will respond to you personally.

    Also, here is another article that explains more:

    Looking forward to hearing from you directly.
    – Mitch Thrower, Founder, E-mail me directly at [email protected]

    • 0 avatar

      Well, for starters, don’t use the word “safe” 7 times in a blog post on an enthusiast site.  That’s code for electronic nannies and brings up images of taking our stick shifts from our cold dead hands.

    • 0 avatar

      “in fact, this is a request for more help and feedback.”

      OK, since you asked. For starters, many of us don’t consider time spent in our cars as “wasted”. We are in our cars to get somewhere that we need to be, and we don’t need addl inputs from web-based services other than directions on how to best reach our destination. We’re also concerned about other motorists receiving too many inputs from a variety of sources (yours included) while they are operating heavy equipment around us. The list of possible benefits to us are far outweighed by the set of distractions and intrusions that your service are certain to deliver. And we’re none too happy about the lack of a confirmed opt-in to your service for our plates. It seems that anyone could register my plate with you and steal a portion of my identity. The creepiness factor just goes on and on.

      The pitch for your service reminds of the early days of caller ID when the phone companies had to convince govt agencies (via the public) to let them add the function to their systems. We were pitched that caller ID would let us identify crank callers and make us safer (somehow), when the average user would have to shell out money for the service and the extra equipment needed to see the info. The real benefit went to businesses that could easily justify the expense in order to gather very valuable info about who was on the line. Yet they readily convinced us to give up our privacy for little personal benefit but significant benefit to those who wish to make money off of us. Thanks, but no thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      My god.
      I’ll be more than happy to deliver a helium tank, a hose, and a hood, gratis to wherever you are.
      Anywhere. Anytime. McMurdo Station at 3AM tomorrow? I’ll be there. With bells on.
      Mitch.Thrower. You need to eliminate yourself from society/thisplanet  RIGHT NOW. Anyone who can’t understand how this is worse for society (were it possible) than FaceBook is on the wrong side of the bell-curve.

  • avatar

    Dude, I’m SO gellin’.

  • avatar

    Wow…haha. Noticed these commercials were shot in San Diego, wonder if it’s centered there.

  • avatar

    So, people–especially attractive women–will be even more likely to be tailgated by fairly creepy guys, as said guys try to get a license plate number, enter it into a phone along with a message, then upload it onto a website which will in turn sell that information?  That will turn out well.

  • avatar

    “for many, time spent in the car is wasted time.”
    What do you mean, “wasted”? It’s an opportunity to get into your car and drive. That’s not important to you? Then leave the car at home and ride the bus!

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