Challenge: Build An App To Detect Potholes

It can cause your coffee to slosh, your bike tires to pop, and your car wheels to be knocked out of alignment.  It is the pothole – a scourge of drivers and cyclists in every city and town.  The City of Boston, in partnership with Innocentive & Liberty Mutual, announced a competition to develop a new tool in this fight – Street Bump, a mobile phone app that will automatically detect and report potholes.

The prototype version of the application was built in collaboration with Citizapps, a partnership between Fabio Carrera, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Joshua Thorp and Stephen Guerin of the Santa Fe Complex.  If run while driving, Street Bump collects data from the phone’s sensors.  The phone’s built-in GPS can pinpoint the location of the phone while the phone’s accelerometers can detect when the phone – and thus the car or bike – are riding over any potholes.  The Street Bump collects this data hands free.

Now the City is looking to make the app even better.  Through Innocentive’s challenge platform, scientists and software programmers from around the world are being invited to make improvements to the app.  The best improvements will receive awards, courtesy of a $25,000 grant from Liberty Mutual for this project.

Some of the improvements that are being solicited include algorithms to help pinpoint potholes; a method to report to the City automatically when a pothole is detected; and an enhanced design for the app.  Innocentive, a local company, is providing their platform for free as part one of its Public Good Challenges.

This project builds off the successful crowd-sourced app development efforts of Washington, DC and New York City, as well as Innocentive’s Public Good Campaign in places such as Chicago.

To learn more about Street Bump or to participate in the challenge, please visit our Street Bump page.