Google patents a system for cars that maps potholes

google pothole detection
Equipment World
Potholes may be one of life’s few universal grievances. As any frequenter of America’s decaying thoroughfares will tell you, the inch-to-feet-deep nicks in the pavement are not only unpleasant to hit, but often destructive — even deadly. In a 2014 study, the AAA estimated the cost of potholes to drivers at around $6.4 billion, and fully one-third of traffic fatalities, around 11,000 a year, are caused by bad road conditions, with a sizable proportion of those caused by potholes.

Part of the solution is swifter response times by state and city road crews, but potholes’ unpredictable nature can make tracking them a challenge — most municipalities rely on paper reports to locate holes that need fixing. If a patent filed by Google last week is any indication, though, a faster and more accurate method of mapping potholes might be just around the corner.

Google’s newly-granted patent describes software that uses two sensors — GPS and a vertical accelerometer — to automatically document nasty bumps in the road. When a vehicle drives over a pothole, the motion sensor records the severity of the jolt, tags it with the car’s geographic location, and uploads it to the cloud. Specialized software can then eliminate anomalies, cancel out duplicate reports, and generate an individualized “health report” for roads, so to speak.

Google’s proposed system isn’t the first attempt at crowdsourcing pothole locations. Street Bump, a program operated by the city of Boston, is an app that uploads accelerometer and GPS smartphone data to a centralized server and alerts drivers to the locations of unfixed bumps. But Street Bump, unlike Google’s system, requires manual interaction — trips have to be logged individually.

The use cases for continuous pothole monitoring aren’t difficult to imagine — a future version of Google Maps could warn drivers of particularly uneven routes — but cities and states in particular stand to benefit from an automated, up-to-date database of damaged roads. Delayed repairs are often expensive — failure to spend $1 in road repair can result in $7 of cost five years later — and empirical data might just help convince skeptics to address the U.S.’s chronic infrastructure shortfall. (The American Society of Civil Engineers puts the cost of fixing the country’s highways and bridges at $2.7 trillion and rising).

Google’s long-term play, though, is likely for its driverless cars. A comfortable ride is one of the longstanding hopes for self-driving vehicles, and one capable of intelligently navigating around bumpy roads would no doubt deliver. Patents aren’t always indicative of future products, but don’t be surprised to see pothole-sensing tech in a future Google car.

Cars

Semi-autonomous and always available: A peek into the near future of car rental

Soon we will see connected rental fleets with a dedicated lane at airports for self-driving cars, where drivers control the car to the airport, and then the empty car drives itself to the rental lot.
Cars

Watch Cruise Automation’s driverless car perform one of the trickiest maneuvers

Unprotected left turns in urban environments are one of the trickiest maneuvers a driver has to perform — and the same goes for self-driving cars. Autonomous-vehicle company Cruise Automation appears close to nailing it.
Cars

Honda recalls 119,000 2019 CR-V crossovers over fears of airbag deployment

A manufacturing defect in select 2019 Honda CR-V crossovers could cause the airbag to malfunction and unexpectedly deploy, leading the automaker to recall some 137,000 vehicles worldwide, 118,598 of them in the U.S.
Cars

Many Uber and Lyft vehicles have open safety recalls, report says

A Consumer Reports survey of roughly 94,000 cars registered with Uber and Lyft in New York City and Seattle found that many had open safety recalls. The rate of open recalls was similar to that of personal cars, however.
Photography

Adobe Premiere Rush now allows Android users to edit video without the laptop

After launching on desktop and iOS, Adobe Premiere Rush, a streamlined video editor, is now available on Android. Premiere Rush is designed for social media projects and non-professional editors.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Huawei updates, Starlink launch, and Pac-Man’s birthday

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the ongoing Huawei saga, Amazon’s social games for workers, Ford's partnership with a robotics company, the Starlink satellite launch, Pac-Man’s birthday, and more.
Mobile

Hey Google, let’s order out: Food delivery comes to Search, Maps, and Assistant

If you love your takeout, then Google's new online food ordering system is sure to bring a smile to your lips. You can now order takeout from Google Search results, Google Maps, or by using Google Assistant and pick your delivery service.
Mobile

The world can be your oyster with a little help from the best travel apps around

Traveling doesn't need to be a time-consuming nuisance. Our handpicked selection of the best travel apps will keep things simple, whether you need cost comparisons for hotels or directions to renowned eateries.
Mobile

Google Duplex sounds a lot like a human — and sometimes it is one

Google Duplex was originally launched as a way to make bookings at restaurants and other locations. The service was hailed for sounding like a human, but according to a new report, the reason for that might be that sometimes it is a human.
Mobile

Your OnePlus 7 Pro is awesome out of the box, but there's more to discover

You've got your awesome new OnePlus 7 Pro in your hand, and you want to make sure it's set up correctly. Here's our complete guide to the settings you should change, and features you must know about, on the OnePlus 7 Pro.
Mobile

T-Mobile One is being rebranded to Magenta, new users get to keep discounts

T-Mobile offers a number of plans for you and your family, but how do you know which one is best for you and your situation? Here, we break down the specifics of each plan to help you decide.
Mobile

You can't fool us -- this is definitely the Moschino Honor 20 Pro phone

Honor has launched the Honor 20 Pro and the Honor 20 at an event that took place in London. The new smartphone is surprisingly compact, with an impressive four-lens camera for taking stunning shots, day or night.
Mobile

Get your gaming on the go with the 25 best Android games

The Google Play Store is loaded with both terrific and terrible gaming titles. We vetted the store to bring you some of the best Android games available, whether you're into puzzles, shooters, racing games, or something else entirely.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.