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UK government announces funding for "smart cities" pothole app

The UK government has thrown its weight (and its cash) behind an app that allows road users to report potholes.

Fill that Hole (opens in new tab) is an iPhone app that uses geolocation and a simple interface to allow users to locate potholes, add a short description of them, and even send a photo along with the report. The app's data is then passed on to local councils, who can act to fill the potholes.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has now pledged £30,000 to enable CTC, the UK's national cycling charity, to develop an Android version of the app and revamp its website. According to the DfT, extending the app to Android will boost the number of potential users to over 26 million.

The money is a part of the £5.8 billion additional investment on roads that the government announced last summer.

"The government is serious about tackling potholes," said Roads Minister Robert Goodwill. "At best they are an irritation but at worst they can damage vehicles and pose a serious danger to cyclists. That is why we want people to tell councils where to find them so they can fill them in. This app means more people are going to be able to report potholes more easily."

Government support for the app comes as more local authorities are adopting new government guidelines which urge councils to plan extensive maintenance in advance, avoiding costly repairs, or "patching" after potholes have appeared.

In the past year around £23.8 million was spent on repairing roads damaged by winter conditions.

The new app is part of a new trend in app design: using the sophisticated computers we all carry in our pockets in order to help improve the cities we live in. For instance, a recent app developed by Australian researchers allows users to act as mobile "sensors" for noise pollution (opens in new tab), allowing the team to identify trouble spots and propose solutions to the government.

Image: Flickr (_chrisUK)

Paul Cooper
Paul Cooper

Paul has worked as an archivist, editor and journalist, and has a PhD in the cultural and literary significance of ruins. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The BBC, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Discover Magazine, and he was previously Staff Writer and Journalist at ITProPortal.