VIDEO - Speedtraps meets social networking in ultimate iPhone app for lead foots

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

San Diego (CA) – Zooming out of the of Sheraton San Diego parking lot in his new Chevy Z06, Pete Tenereillo is a prime target for a speeding ticket, but he isn’t worried. Tenereillo is the founder of Trapster.com, a social-networking speed trap warning website. Website users receive and submit warnings about nearby speed traps, red light cameras, speed cameras and live police officer locations. The warnings are superimposed on Google Maps, which sounds impressive, but even better, an iPhone application has recently been released for testing. We tested out this app by taking a nail-biting ride with Tenereillo through the mean streets of San Diego and almost got killed in the process.

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Trapster uses the iPhone’s GPS to track the driver and whenever he/she spots a police officer or red light camera they can push the screen to mark their position and send an alert to the central database. This upload takes just a few seconds, according to Tenereillo, and other drivers in the area will soon be alerted with an animated icon along with audio.

Your position is marked by a red dot and a grey alert circle shows an area where you will receive warnings. The alert area can be shrunk or expanded according to your needs – if you’re driving very fast then you might set it at one mile away. While we were cruising down the street, Tenereillo’s iPhone continuously blurted out “live police”, “police often hide here” and “red light camera”. These alerts were recently placed into the database by other users and if the warnings become too annoying you can silence them until a new one pops up.

A new user recently entered a red light camera near our position so we drove there to check it out for real. Sure enough, at the exact spot marked on Google Maps, there was a red light camera. Also the “police often hide here” was proven true as we spotted a sneaky police officer tucked behind a sign as we were driving back to the hotel. Tenereillo then tapped his iphone and sent a “Live Police” alert to warn other drivers that there is currently an officer sitting at that spot.

Ok, so like any user generated content, some people might want to put in false information. This is where the social networking aspect comes into play. Users can rate warnings and these ratings affect a person’s karma score. You can block people who don’t have high karma and you can also enforce a blacklist that blocks any warning from a particular user. On top of that, you can private message other Trapster users.

Tenereillo plans on adding a pot hole and road hazard warning where people can mark and upload dangerous areas. He really could have used this feature recently as he mangled the front bumper of his brand new (only 151 miles!) Ferrrari on a high railroad track – this cost him $20000.

A wrong way driver almost hit us while driving back to the hotel, but thankfully he turned around at the last minute. Funny enough, the iphone was blurting out that the police often hide here.

Speaking of the police, Tenereillo says most police have been supportive of his apps. Some have even said that if it makes people slow down, then all the better.

Now you would think hard core speeders would be the main users, but so far 60% of the users have been basically soccer moms who are always rushing around picking up kids and groceries. “They’re always being rushed and apparently they get ticketed the most,” Tenereillo told me.

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Trapster app is currently awaiting approval from iTunes. In addition to the iPhone, the app works on most Symbian and Blackberry phones.