Northeastern University Created a Pothole-Sensing Van to Predict Future 'Imperfections'

Apr 17, 2015 12:33 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

A team of engineers at Northeastern University have created a new mapping technology that could eventually predict nasty road potholes, according to the Boston Globe.

To test their mapping technology, engineers equipped a large white truck with a tire pressure sensor, microphones and a ground-penetrating radar to study the soil under the roads in Beverly, Massachusetts.

"We combine the results of all of these sensors using a data-fusion algorithm to give us an overall condition rating for every street we're driving on," said Engineer David Vines-Cavanaugh of Northeastern University during an interview with Fox News.

The van isn't just smart though, it's also fast. In just four days the van covered over 150 miles of local roads. To put things in perspective, that kind of coverage would have taken Commissioner of Public Services Michael Collins and his crew in Beverley at least a year to achieve.

"It's almost real-time information for us, and we're able to now see the entire street network and its condition," said Collins to Fox News.

This kind of pothole-tracking technology would also work well with the latest infotainment systems offering GPS navigation and two-way communication to drivers.

For example, every brand-new General Motors vehicle comes with an OnStar trial period to provide drivers help during an emergency, turn-by-turn directions and assistance if their vehicle gets stolen. Eventually the same GPS tracking technology used for those services could also help monitor road imperfections to alert other drivers and road workers.

Boston University is also working on an app called "Street Bump," which detects potholes through a smartphone's motion detector, the Boston Globe reported. When a pothole is detected an alert gets sent to other users through data connections.

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