Potholes are not a joke. They get in your way, damage your car and make you spill a Starbucks Venti's worth of coffee 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 utilise this resource, researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park developed some software that allows volunteers with virtually no training to scan through the streets in a neighbourhood 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 US government 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 the road to widespread integration is a well-paved one. Let's hope this makes it to Britain holly roads. [New Scientist]