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Road Angels taps social networking for roadside assistance

A new iPhone app by a Melbourne-based start-up lets you tap into your Facebook friends for emergency roadside assistance.

A new iPhone app by a Melbourne-based start-up lets you tap into your Facebook friends for emergency roadside assistance.

(Credit: Road Angels)

Breaking down while driving is always a stressful experience, and when Marcus Wong was told he had the wrong kind of vehicle, and therefore the company he'd trusted couldn't help him, he decided to take action.

"Imagine that, after paying for years of subscription fees totalling almost AU$2000, the company you trusted with roadside assistance refused to help you because you were 'driving the wrong car'. I mean, shouldn't policies cover people, not cars? This, unfortunately, happened to me," he said. "I was left stranded 30 kilometres from home with a flat car battery with no help on the way; so I had to improvise a solution. I walked around the area prompting strangers for a helping hand, and after an hour searching, I found a helpful elderly couple. They gave me a quick jump-start, and I was back on the road. I was so grateful I gave them AU$20 for their service. Out of the maelstrom of frustration, gratitude, anger and happiness came an idea, and Road Angels was born."

Road Angels, a free iPhone app, lets you leverage your Facebook friends for help. When you break down, you can send a notification to up to 300 Facebook friends so that, if anyone happens to be nearby, they can pop by with a spare tyre, jumper cables or jerry can of fuel, and you can even sweeten the pot by offering them something in return.

"Our purpose is to make roadside assistance affordable, more efficient and accessible for everyone, regardless of location or socioeconomic status," Wong said. "We understand that many people living outside the Melbourne CBD experience extremely long wait times for roadside assistance, which can sometimes be upwards of two hours during peak periods. On top of that, many people do not possess a roadside assistance policy at all, meaning they have no insurance when things go wrong."

As well as allowing you to ask your mates for a helping hand, the app — which won the Startup Weekend Melbourne competition earlier this year — has an assistant mode that helps you troubleshoot common problems and a quiz mode that gives you something to do while you wait for help to arrive.

But the team has more in store; much like Airtasker and GoCatch, it wants to create a system where practictioners can be reviewed and approved.

"Our future plans include growing a grassroots roadside-assistance community, the 'Airtasker' of roadside assistance, where anyone at anytime can find vetted, skilled roadside-assistance practitioners (with or without professional qualifications) at the press of a button," Wong said. "As a natural corollary, these practitioners will be able to help those in need for a nominal fee of their choosing."

You can download Road Angels for free from the iTunes App Store.