The Crap-O-Surface Detector

Even in this day and age, the roads the general public cycle on are riddled with potholes, speed humps falling over themselves, or general unevenness around man hole covers and drains. I’m fed up with having to look at the road in front of me for these bicycle damaging unevenness and potholes instead of at the surrounding traffic, which to be honest is more important.

There is already a service in the UK for reporting these defects to the local council, called FixMyStreet. There is even have an iPhone app for reporting problems while on the ground. However I felt that not enough people knew about FixMyStreet, and even fewer were reporting problems. So I decided to come up with a way to automate these reports to the local councils even further.

I believed that these uneven roads could be crowd sourced through recording a GPS track, and a storage of seismograph by using the accelerometer in the iPhone or iPod Touch. These tracks are merged together and tied to the road network automagically, now that there are enough tracks in the system, analysis is running constantly to find places where many people regularly have a high vibration, when flying over a speed hump, or just about halted as though you have hit the kerb straight on by finding a conspicuous pot hole in the middle of a bus lane, about one bus length away from a sunken drain.

Some of the crowd sourcing community have taken this a step further and provide a video stream of the whole cycle ride, which again is synced up with the GPS trace, and used as evidence of poor quality road surface. The whole sync process is done automagically after you upload. It is even more accurate if you up load a photo of the time on the GPS and the seismometer.

OpenStreetMap is now using this data to enter all the traffic calming, in a few months time the Crap-O-Surface Detector service will start automatically suggesting places where there are speed humps, and giving the appropriate, err smoothness tag* for every road.

CycleStreets have found the data to be so good, that they have decided to postpone implementing traffic lights, specific routes, fixing the OSM to Cycle Streets types, and of course hill avoidance, in favour of using the data from the Crap-O-Surface Detector service. Don’t worry, all the other items are still on the todo list.

So I’m please to announce that the Crap-O-Surface Detector is now out of the private pre-Alpha, and today entering the Beta stage in the software cycle, please head over to to see how you can participate, while watching more roadworks in the places that really, really need them. Once the roadworks are gone, you should (if the council contractor has been doing their job properly) see a marked improvement in the road surface.


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