ChatGPT helps UK student overturn parking fine with personalised appeal to city council

A university student in Britain used artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT to write a letter to her local city council, and successfully overturned a £60 (S$99) parking fine.

York St John University student Millie Houlton, 22, decided to contest the ticket when she was wrongly penalised for parking on her street in the city.

She told British broadcaster ITV News that initially, she was going to pay the money as she thought challenging the summons was not worth the hassle.

“(But) I knew I was right, I paid for a permit, I shouldn’t have been given a ticket,” she said.

She asked ChatGPT to help her write a well-articulated letter with the prompt “Please help me write a letter to the council, they gave me a parking ticket”.

She also put in details such as the location, reference number and the circumstances.

“It came back with this perfectly formed personalised response within minutes,” she told the BBC.

She added: “It said I was a student and that I had paid for my permit for two years, and I wasn’t going to deliberately park somewhere I shouldn’t.”

Within days of sending off the AI-generated email, she was notified that the appeal had been accepted and the council withdrew the fine.

From writing speeches and songs, to computer code and even students’ homework, the software application by the Silicon Valley company OpenAI ChatGPT mimics human-like conversation based on user prompts and can answer questions.

The latest version, GPT-4, is smart enough to pass the bar exam sat by human trainee lawyers. OpenAI claimed that GPT-4 performed at the 90th percentile on a simulated bar exam, the 93rd percentile on an SAT reading exam, and the 89th percentile on the SAT Math exam.

It has garnered more than 100 million users since its launch in November last year.

As the software has grown and gained popularity, so has concern about just how clever the tool could become.

Italy has just blocked ChatGPT, citing privacy concerns.

It has been also banned from schools in New York and some Australian states, while in Britain, ITV said the government and exam boards are in discussions about how to legislate against cheating.

In Singapore, students enrolled in International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes are allowed to use content created by ChatGPT in their schoolwork, but any content generated by the AI that students use in their essays should be credited and appropriately referenced.

Ms Houlton, who shared her successful parking fine appeal in TikTok in a video which has since been viewed more than 300,000 times, told ITV the tool was useful but added: “The more I use it, the scarier it is, because it really can do everything.”

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