I drove with an AI app that finds potholes on my commute and it’s the new Google Maps

AI (artificial intelligence) is emerging more and more in our daily lives and programmers are constantly finding new applications for the technology. In general, AI allows computers to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving skills.

In past years, he was often associated with sci-fi films such as The Terminator. But technology has now entered our smartphones with popular apps such as ChatGPT, where users can have open chats with a computer.

Another new AI-powered app is called Stan, which allows drivers to document the quality of public roads using their phone cameras. Stan – short for Safer Travel Around Neighborhoods – is a free and easy-to-use app launched by British developers in January 2024.

READ MORE: I visited the ‘forgotten’ M6 services with a ‘ghost bridge’ which was once the UK’s busiest name.

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It works by allowing drivers to upload photos or record a journey like a dashcam. The photos and videos are then analyzed using AI and the data is plotted on Stan’s built-in map of the UK, which uses a colour-coded system to indicate good and poor quality roads.

BirminghamLive was invited to test the app and see what we made of the results. All we needed to get started was to download Stan from the Apple store (it’s also available on Android) and get a phone mount for a car windshield.

The way BirminghamLive did it

The way BirminghamLive did it -Credit:Stan

Stan has two modes, Photo Mode and Driving Mode, the latter of which is used to record journeys. When you click on Drive Mode, you simply press the record button and the AI ​​technology does the rest, with the screen going black.

It is worth noting that for clear results, you need to position your phone in the plant in the middle of the windshield and make sure the camera is in focus. Having a bit of your car’s bonnet in the frame is fine, but if the phone’s device is also visible, it can blur the camera and the app won’t capture anything (which happened to me the first time).

Stan assesses the road in 10 meter sections and provides a score out of five, from low to high: brown, red, orange, yellow and green. Your results will look like a snake on Stan’s road map, with small circles representing the roads you’ve taken.

To test Stan, I chose to travel along a mixture of roads to see what the results would be like, including well-maintained A roads and lesser B roads that could have holes in them. Amazingly, the app is programmed to detect 45 types of road conditions and street assets, allowing it to tell different shapes and objects apart.

Potholes on Green Lane RoadPotholes on Green Lane Road

The Potholes on Green Lane Road – Credit: Stan

My journey began in Penkridge, Staffordshire, where I took the A449 Wolverhampton Road – dual carriageway – down to Wolverhampton. The road received good scores overall, coming up green with only a few yellow patches.

It only got more interesting when we got to Wolverhampton. I took a right off the A449 and went along the Wobaston Road, passing through Pendeford and back over the Staffordshire border into Bilbrook.

Here, I expected potholes as the roads were quieter, rural and across two council boundaries – and I was not disappointed. The Stan app recorded a number of orange patches along Wobaston Road in Pendeford due to polyps.

Hole in Barnhurst LaneHole in Barnhurst Lane

Hole in Barnhurst Lane – Credit: Stan

Orange patches were also thrown up in Lane Green Road, Bilbrook, alongside Pendeford Avenue and Barnhurst Lane in Pendeford. Interestingly, the latter road previously had more potholes but council officers were stumped after it was highlighted by BirminghamLive.

We looped back onto the A449 via Wobaston Road again and continued south into Wolverhampton, going all the way down to the island in Bushbury with a KFC. Along the way, several orange patches were recorded on the A449 in Oxley, where it passes Three Waves Lane and a small stretch beyond.

Fortunately, however, we did not experience any sections of red or brown road during our entire trip. When we returned home, it was time to upload the data and the results we got back were incredible.

Our entire route was mapped on the Stan app, a trail of colorful circles that show where we drive, and it was great to see how accurately Stan analyzed the road. Seeing one orange spot on Wobaston Road, I remembered where I had to slide to a pothole.

Although not available through the app, Stan’s team was able to send me screenshots from my recording where different types of plots were collected and analyzed. This type of data is also shared with local authorities, including Birmingham, who Stan works alongside to repair and maintain our roads.

The app uses a form of AI called SmartVision technology, also known as computer vision, which allows computers to analyze and gather information from moving footage. Although Stan was only used and launched in January, it was clear that this technology has huge potential and represents the future.

If you have potholes near where you live and feel a lack of action from the council, I would strongly recommend you download Stan as this is another way of drawing attention to the issue and other drivers inform.

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