License and Registration
App Makes Traffic Citations Faster, More Accurate
Several years ago, Vince Fong was driving late at night on a lightly traveled highway in Southern California and didn’t see a trailer parked under a bridge ahead of him. His car slammed into it at 70 mph.
Amazingly, he walked away from the collision without a scratch, but what he really remembers about that night was the fast, courteous and professional response of the Highway Patrol.
“They were there in minutes, got the car off the road, and stabilized the situation,” he says. “I’m very grateful to them for what they did, and the experience got me to thinking that some day I’d like to do something that would provide a service for law enforcement.”
That’s happening now. Fong, who graduated from Santa Clara University in 2012 with a joint degree in economics and political science, started a business called Pax Tech with fellow alum Anthony Prieto, who owns Bronco Student Services. This year the company is introducing a new app called Wingman, which enables law enforcement officers to prepare citations, arrest forms and routine reports on an iPad. The company is in negotiation with the San Jose Police Department and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department for trying it out for six months on a pilot basis.
Wingman provides a screen image that looks like a traffic citation, but it comes with additional aids for filling out the form. It can scan a driver’s license and enter the information, saving time and improving accuracy, and has a scrollable list of traffic violations from which the officer can select one by tapping on it. It can provide the location of an accident and a list of vehicle makes and models. Citations can be printed out or emailed to the persons receiving them.
“We do know from testing it methodically,” Fong says, “that it takes a minute and 40 seconds to fill out a routine citation in Wingman, as opposed to five to fifteen minutes writing it out with pen and paper. For the officer, this means less time spent on paperwork and more time on patrol.”
And beyond the time, there’s a safety issue as well. Fong says 20-30 percent of all law enforcement fatalities occur when an officer is struck by a car on the side of the road; less time spent on traffic stops should reduce that risk.
If the pilot program is successful, the business plan calls for Wingman to be offered on a subscription basis. Pax Tech would provide the app and iPad for a monthly charge per unit, and would provide continuing upgrades as technology changes. The last point is important, because Fong says there are products similar to Wingman on the market that haven’t gained much traction because they can’t be easily upgraded.
“We’re trying to offer an innovative business solution with no hidden costs,” Fong says. “We want to provide value to our customers, and if they don’t see value in our product, they should dump us.”
Entrepreneurism came naturally to Fong, and he says Santa Clara University both nurtured him and provided practical tools and connections to develop his entrepreneurial instincts.
He was offered a substantial scholarship when Santa Clara accepted him, and when his father lost his job following the 2008 economic downturn, the school waived his tuition for a quarter to allow him to remain enrolled, a gesture for which he says he will always be grateful.
As a student he was deeply involved with a campus club called the Santa Clara Entrepreneurs Organization, actively participated in the Business Startup Expos organized by the campus Career Center, and was well connected with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
After graduating two years ago, he did sales, marketing and operations work for a startup company called Runa, where he had interned while still a student. Runa does software development in the areas of sales and marketing, including algorithms to predict customer behavior. It was recently acquired by Staples.
“At Runa, I learned how tech startups work and built up the skills I needed to start up my own tech business,” Fong says.
Now that he’s done that, he says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the reception for Wingman.
“I thought we’d have to fight for accounts,” he says, “but so far there’s been nothing but positive reception. The only pushback I’ve gotten is from drivers who think this will result in more tickets being issued.”
Fong believes the time saved with Wingman will mean more patrolling, not necessarily more tickets, and says that even for the pulled-over motorist, there’s a silver lining. “When you get a ticket,” he says, “it’s usually because you’re in a hurry. At least this will get you back on the road faster.”