Potholes are hardly the worst effect of South Africa’s crumbling infrastructure but they certainly are some of the most annoying. Internet search giant, Google, recently patented a system that might help to solve the problem, or at the very least take the first step.
As outlined in a patent awarded earlier this month in the USA, Google’s system is actually a fairly simple one at the top level. Basically, a car uses some manner of shock sensors that trigger when a pothole is hit, and then the car beams the GPS location of the hole up to servers that keep a catalogue of where the holes are.
There is however a little more nuance deeper down. Specifically it also uses the sensors (and information from other cars) to create data on how bumpy a road is on average. The deviation from this norm helps to highlight how bad a pothole is and gives cars a value to check against to make sure their sensors aren’t out of whack. You can bet this technology will also wind up in Google’s self-driving cars.
Of course identifying potholes is only one part of the problem, one that similar systems from Land Rover (which uses smartphone sensors to detect bumps) aim to solve as well. Hopefully once we have a wealth of data on what holes are worst and where they are, road officials can at least prioritize which ones to fix. But in South Africa this might be a very long way off.
I guess we’ll still have to wait for the patent on cars that can fill potholes on the go.