Feb. 10, 2011 at 12:51 PM ET
A new smart phone app that can detect potholes without the driver having to do anything except drive — a novel idea! — is in the works by the city of Boston.
If it's successful, "Street Bump" could not only save taxpayer dollars, but motorists' sanity as they try to maneuver their bouncing cars filled with coffee cups and kids on city streets. The state spends about $2 million a year to patch potholes.
"Boston is known for its old streets, but we are using the most modern technology to improve them," said the city's mayor, Thomas M. Menino, in a press release about Street Bump.
The app, being tested now, uses a phone's GPS and accelerometer, and could work with the iPhone, Android phones and other mobile devices with those two features.
And you don't have to be holding the phone for Street Bump to work.
According to The Boston Globe, Street Bump would:
... automatically report potholes to the city by sensing when a car has hit a bump. The app ... would be sensitive enough to identify cracks and divots, alerting the city to pavement problems before they become car-crunching craters.
The accelerometer, which determines the direction and acceleration of a phone’s movement, can be harnessed to identify when a phone resting on a dashboard or in a cupholder in a moving car has hit a bump; the GPS receiver can determine by satellite just where that bump is located.
The city is holding a "Street Bump Challenge" to encourage "scientists and software programmers, business people and other problem solvers from around the world to suggest their own improvements" to Street Bump, the city said. "The best submissions will receive awards courtesy of a $25,000 grant from Liberty Mutual."
Boston will make the app available to other cities once Street Bump is honed and ready for prime time. Its potential is exciting, though, and its hands-free use lends real meaning to the phrase "smart phone."