Boston Street Bump pothole reporting

Street Bump was a project organised by the City of Boston, Massachusetts, that aimed to help residents improve their neighbourhood streets that volunteers could use to collect road condition data on their smartphones.

Launched in 2011, the app automatically collected road condition information using smartphone accelerometers and GPS, without the need for human intervention. 

Operator: City of Boston
Developer: City of Boston 

Country: USA

Sector: Govt - municipal; Transport/logistics

Purpose: Detect & report potholes

Technology: Computer vision; Object recognition
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - income, location; Effectiveness/value; Involvement/participation


Risks and harms 🛑

Street Bump has raised concerns about the system's accuracy and reliability, discrimination, poor usability and low user adoption, and the misallocation of public funds.

The first version of the app, Street Bump 1.0, was unable to distinguish between potholes and other bumps or movements, resulting in many false positives.

People in lower income groups and the elderly were less likely to have smartphones, resulting in the app excluding a significant proportion of the city's population and leading to an unequal allocation of funds.

It appears that the Street Bump app failed to gain many users. Reasons given include its poor usability and the fact that it cannot run in the background, meaning users cannot access other apps while they are recording a trip.

Page info
Type: System
Published: July 2023
Last updated: May 2024