University researchers use Google Street View to locate potholes

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HOUSTON, TX – It’s a game of sorts for Robert Martinez, counting the cars bumping their way through Houston potholes.

“Just about everyone that goes by,” he notes, hitting the holes.

But it’s not as much fun when you’re the one behind the wheel.

“You can’t dodge them, because there’s other cars on the side of you,’ he explains.  ‘If the pothole is there, you’re going to have to either slow down or hit it.”

With nearly three-million-miles of roads in the U.S., keeping track of every pothole is next to impossible. Meaning getting them fixed is even harder.

But researchers at the University of Maryland have found a new way to get the word out: Google.

Using Google’s Street View to scour America’s roadways, Maryland researchers have identified some fourteen-thousand potholes, cracked streets and other road problems not yet identified by maintenance crews.

They’ve then sent screen-grabs of the images to work crews in the field, making it easier for maintenance teams to assess and fix the problem.

It’s a novel idea, but not so new to Houston.

“Working with our 311 system, we created an app that allows motorists, residents to report more efficiently,” Houston Public Works spokesman Alvin Wright said.

Houston public works crews regularly use photos of potholes sent by drivers to assess repairs.

“Pictures speak a thousand words and we encourage the public to send photographs,” Wright says.

So whether it’s a team of researchers in Maryland, or a pocket app here in Houston, if it works, Robert Martinez is all for it.

“Maybe it gives high officials a better look at it, maybe think of better ways of fixing it.”