India is the seventh-largest country globally and has one of the world’s largest road networks, with 59 lakh km of road length. Potholes in India have become so common that drivers have learned to spot them and violently avoid them. However, this causes further accidents. Pothole death has been increasing because of heavy traffic and water on roads.
In 2018, more than 2,000 people were reported dead, and over 4,000 succumbed to injuries from accidents caused by potholes. Google Maps have well mapped the Indian roads over the years; however, it does not contain information about the dents and cavities on the way.
A startup called ‘Intents’ proposes a method to solve this problem using sensors in one’s phone. The company is founded by Tabriz Alam, Naresh Kacchi, Prakash Velusamy, and Balasubraniam R to gather information about potholes and alert users to avoid accidents.
The startup created an application that captures potholes using the phone’s sensors such as gyroscope and accelerometer. The algorithm observes the changes in the vehicle’s speed and sudden dips and jumps to identify if the road has potholes in particular areas.
To use this app, one does not have to share any personal information. One can install the app and go about business without even registering. Any collected information is stored behind a public key infrastructure (PKI) to improve the collected data’s privacy. Users can use any mapping application like google maps, and the Intents’ Go app will alert them about potholes through audio. The app also works offline. If the phone’s GPS is enabled, it records the data and sends it back to the server when the connection is available.
The company needed much data to track the potholes, but the number of vehicles on roads reduced due to the pandemic. Thus they incentivized truck and cab operators to install its driver app in exchange for monetary rewards. Apart from potholes, the company also urged drivers to record other spots like police post, water-soaked areas, and closed roads with photo proof.
The app has more than 120,000 active users. The company states that the users are mapping more than 750,000 kilometers daily and recorded over 150,000 potholes. The app also pays attention to the repaired potholes. When more than ten vehicles pass a spot where a dent was previously registered, the pothole is removed from the system. Based on this data, the startup asserts to be removing 30,000 potholes daily.
The firm says the next challenge is to refine the ML algorithm to measure the pothole’s severity. The team plans to show colored markers in place of potholes to indicate how deep the dent is. Currently, they are working on an iOS version of the app.
The startup is trying to work with government agencies to create dashboards helping authorities repair road anomalies quickly to avoid accidents. It is also in talks with commercial partners like construction and logistics firm, who’ll benefit from observing the road situation.