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Surprising Science

Locating Sidewalk Problems Virtually

Developers have created software that helps users — specifically, crowdsourced workers — locate and mark challenges for those with limited mobility, and generates a report to send to the appropriate local agency.

What’s the Latest Development?

Developers at the University of Maryland-College Park have created software that generates data about sidewalk impediments such as blockages, uneven pavements, and other issues and puts it into a report that can be sent to the local government agency responsible for fixing them. Thanks to Google Street View and crowdsourced workers from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, problems everywhere can be identified and reported on from anywhere, making it a more expansive service than one such as FixMyStreet, a UK-based site that depends on locals.

What’s the Big Idea?

People who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids often have difficulty with sidewalks that are blocked or in poor condition. Researchers prototyped the software after the US Department of Transportation expressed interest in the project: “[It] could save municipalities precious time and resources by telling repair teams the precise nature of the problem before they head into the field. This would aid scheduling and ensure that crews take the right amount of materials…to the site.” The team will present their work later this year at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, to be held in Paris.

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Read it at New Scientist


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