Potholes are not a joke. They get in your way, damage your car and make you spill a Big Gulp's worth of Grape Fanta on your already-dingy upholstered seats. But new research shows that Google Street View may be all municipalities need to correct the problem.
The U.S. has about 4 million miles of road where potholes can form, and almost all of it has been imaged by Google satellites and Street View cars. To utilize this resource, researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park developed a software that allows volunteers with virtually no training to scan through the streets in a neighborhood, marking potholes as they go. The study crowd sourced from Amazon's Mechanical Turk service, and used a simple training video to orient participants.
The program can turn the pothole data into detailed, highlighted maps so road crews know where to go. The Department of Transportation has expressed interest in the research, and future versions may not rely on volunteers at all, if computer algorithms can be used to "see" potholes with even more accuracy. Here's hoping the road to widespread integration is a well-paved one. [New Scientist]