Imagine technology that analyzes the road on which you’re driving and compiles this information into a sort of nationwide pothole database that exists to make road trips much more pleasant.

You don’t have to; Google has beaten you to the draw with their recent patent on just this feature. Using a combination of vehicle sensors and global positioning systems, Google’s new technology will have the capability of scanning the stretch of highway you’re driving and reporting back on what it finds. It’s all very big-brother-like, but without the spilled coffee.

Not Just Another App

Oh sure, pothole apps have been around for awhile, but never like this. Google aims to compile enough information on major thoroughfares to take mapping to the next level. Now, instead of just building your route around the time it takes to get there and the type of routes you prefer, you’ll be able to avoid some of the worst roads in the nation. (sorry, Pennsylvania)

Other versions of pothole finders are out there, but what Google has planned could update in real time — meaning the moment a pothole opens up and a car passes over it, it gets added to the database — allowing drivers to stay abreast of even the most recent issues. It’s easy to imagine the reach of such technology in spotting potential trouble spots and even in aiding emergency disaster relief. Google’s new technology could do more than just plot the most comfortable route between your family and the beach — it could very well help save your life — or at least your front-end alignment.

How It Works

Google’s new design entails outfitting vehicles with shock sensors that respond to vibration. When your outfitted car rolls over a teeth-rattler of a pothole, the vibration is noted, sent to a central server, and included in the database to help alert the guy who’s coming up behind you. There’s no word yet on how long it will take between detection and reporting, but if the technology is right, it could very well factor in the area of mere seconds. The information is expected to go out over a mobile network, so expectations are high, even if Google isn’t talking.

What This Means for You

What this means for you is less damage from potholes and lower repair costs each year. Even a single pothole can do serious damage – – just ask the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, Inc. According to the IIABA, motorists rack up about $4.8 billion in damages each year due to potholes. This includes blown-out tires, bent and broken rims, and even tie-rod damage. Hitting a pothole can wreck your vehicle alignment too. You can report these damages to your insurance company for coverage, but look out when your next bill arrives and your premiums have skyrocketed. A defensive driving course may help lower your insurance premiums back to acceptable levels when this occurs. Even better, when paired with Google’s new technology, traffic school takes on new, unlimited potential.

While Google’s latest idea involves collecting more geographic information on drivers than ever before, the rewards make this appear to be a good thing. The question you have to ask yourself is simple: “Am I willing to let Google know when and where I am on the road at all times in return for information that could save me heartache and hard cash?”

Once the new vehicle sensors begin rolling out, the results will start rolling in. And though it’s not yet clear when this new technology will go live, consumers are optimistic. A recent article by Jeff Glucker for MotorAuthority likened potholes to “The mosquitoes of the automotive world.” Glucker goes on to mention how the new technology could result in a road receiving an “average level of bumpy” — exactly what every driver needs to know before heading out for that cross-country vacation to Wally World.

Whether Google’s new pothole detection technology will effect the massive changes that it has the potential to do remains to be seen, but with the bright and innovative minds behind Google at the wheel, could there be anything but smooth roads ahead?

This being said, enrolling in a good defensive driving course in the meantime will help you learn how to avoid the worst of life’s potholes – both on the road and off. Voluntary participation in traffic school is one of the best ways to lower insurance premiums, to remove citations and to drop points off your license – that is, until Google finds a way to do it for you.