August 26, 2015

Google Can Help You Avoid Potholes on the Road

Image from SmartWorld.























By Joseph A.


We’ve all been there. Driving down the street, listening to some music, when all of a sudden--a sudden drop on one side of your car, a bellowing thud echoing throughout, and a jarring movement that smacks you against the headrest.  It’s safe to assume we’ve all run over potholes at one time or another.  In some cases they’re merely a small bump, but larger ones can damage cars and potentially harm drivers. Since it is impossible to predict when and where the next potholes will pop up, Google is taking matters into their own hands with a potential pothole detection software that can be incorporated into GPS systems.

Google has filed a patent for a way to track potholes across the United States, using your car's GPS navigation system and other sensors to detect damaged portions of a road. Once that information is processed, it is put into a database where it can be used it to determine a less bumpy path.

Google could also monitor the vibrations your car is subjected to when you roll over a pothole, and cross-reference that with GPS data — which is standard for most cars these days. By doing this,  Google could easily pinpoint where potholes have sprung up while also canceling out any outliers. All of that data could then be used to alert drivers about damaged roads and suggest a way around them. (Ahem, Google Maps.)
 
The more data that can be collected about potholes and road damage, the better, because the country's infrastructure is struggling and extremely underfunded. America loses an estimated $87 billion annually in lost time and fuel due to overcrowded roads. Potholes play a part in this: they slow down traffic, cause accidents, and damage vehicles. And, as Gizmodo notes, Google has a fleet of self-guided cars that it would love to introduce to all this data.

While the idea is innovative, Google is actually not the first to attempt something along these lines. The city of Boston has been running a program for the last few years called Street Bump that fundamentally does the same thing. Boston’s local government uses the crowdsourced data to alert riders about the location of potholes, assigns crews to temporarily fix them, then plans longer-term investments to revamp stretches of road in need. The difference here is that Street Bump is a mobile app that collects data from drivers' phones. Google's idea, should it ever come to fruition, would likely be more detailed and more reliable.

Do you think pothole detection is a worthwhile upgrade for your GPS? Let us know in the comments below!

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