City authorities in Boston have begun to test a smart phone software application called Street Bump, which would allow motorists to automatically report potholes and other road hazards as soon as they come across them. Other cities around the country and even internationally are currently monitoring the results of the software tests being carried out by Boston officials who hope the program can eventually save the city the time and resources required to patrol the city’s streets in search of road hazards. Road workers in the city of Boston currently patch an estimated 19,000 potholes every year.
Application users can report these obstacles automatically without the need for their direct involvement. Drivers can load the application before starting their cars, set the phones on the dashboard or inside the cup holder, and the program will use the phone’s accelerometer motion detection device to determine when the vehicle travels across uneven surfaces. The phone’s GPS feature then logs the location, and the phone automatically sends the information to a remote server, which cross references the location to eliminate the possibility that the vehicle traveled over a manhole cover or speed bump as opposed to a pothole. After three hits are recorded in the same location it is then classified as the site of a pothole.
Other cities throughout the country have been conducting similar experiments with social networking sites, inviting citizens to report potholes and other road hazards through the city’s Facebook or Twitter accounts. The city of Boston previously promoted a smart phone application that needed user input to report road obstacles through Twitter, text messaging, a 24-hour hotline, or using the city’s official website. The Street Bump application, available on iTunes (a version for the Android smart phone software platform is currently under development), is attracting the attention of officials in other cities as well. Other suggested applications for the automatic motion detection technology include early earthquake detection and a black box recording device for police cars.
The software’s designers estimate that a few hundred users have currently downloaded the software, and the city of Boston plans to promote the experiement via social media websites by encouraging the city’s residents to download and use the free application. The software’s programmers are still trying to determine how many active users the application needs in order to be effective, but project managers working for the city expressed a desire to have as many as several thousand residents using the program.