Campus Life

Stockton faculty member looks to make roads safer with Smooryde app.

Smooryde introductory trailer provided by Dr. Berbasov

In 2019, Dr. Berbasov, an assistant professor of Chemistry, was driving from Philadelphia to Stockton University to teach his courses and realized that there was a more efficient way to complete road repairs. Normally, when someone stumbles upon a pothole or patch of road that is damaged, there is a manual system that needs to be completed that requires drivers to report the damaged portion of the road several meters away from the actual damage. This causes many people to either feel like they should not report the road repairs or they are too busy to report an area that is damaged. These systems are also designed in a way that is less user friendly leading to large areas of road damage information lost due to public inability to report.

This lack of information about precise areas of damaged road can often lead to an ineffective means of representing the need for road repairs within certain areas. Normally there are systems in place throughout the counties of a state to go around on either an annual or biannual period to complete regularly scheduled road repairs, but there are some areas that get worn down faster than the counties are able to keep up with and they are unable to determine these areas of damage quickly. This can cause large amounts of funding to be poured into road repairs, and Dr. Berbasov explained that a small pothole can cost about $900 to repair and the larger potholes can nearly triple in price as costs range from about $2000 to $2400. This means that if states want to be able to stretch their budgets and keep road repairs down, there needs to be a system in place for early detection and precise location of damage. 

Enter Dr. Berbasov’s project Smooryde, a prototype application that uses the accelerometer and GPS within smartphones in order to detect when a car hits a pothole or patch of damaged road based on vibrations. This project was a collaboration between Dr. Berbasov and colleague Dr. J. Russell Manson -professor of Applied physics and Director of the Graduate Program in Data Science and Strategic Analytics- along with graduate students Kyle Keough, and Christian Coyle. Dr. Manson aided in confirming the idea and providing the physics behind it while graduate students Kyle Keough and Christian Coyle programmed the Smooryde prototype that can be found on the Google Playstore at the moment. This prototype was used as proof that Dr. Berbasov’s concept could be seen as a reality, and when the app is fully functional it would allow the user to quickly report any road damage without ever needing to lift a finger.

The app works by having one’s smartphone, whether it is in your pocket, on the dashboard or in the seat of your car and collects vibrational and location information to provide a report to the developers about where there may be a patch of road that is damaged. The vibrations are collected by the accelerometer in a smartphone to send signals of potential damage. Every smartphone has an accelerometer built into it as it is the main way a phone detects what orientation the phone is in while you hold it in your hands. So instead of just merely being used to determine landscape or portrait mode in your phone, the Smooryde app uses it to detect potential potholes. 

Dr. Berbasov demonstrates with an iPhone 6 how the accelerometer within a smartphone is able to track vibrational changes on a bus ride. This was one of the first steps to the Smooryde application and project.

The project is crowd sourced, meaning the larger the user base the more data can be used to confirm previous data entries to ensure that there really is a pothole in a certain location and no error has occurred. Since the Smooryde app is only on the Google Playstore at the moment, the overall user base may seem smaller than an application found within Apple’s App Store, though this is due to the various fees required to get on the App Store compared to the Playstore.

Berbasov hopes to remedy these monetary restrictions by gaining funding through an Indiegogo campaign where he is looking to raise $70,000 to improve the app, expand the required servers, and provide students an opportunity to both work on the campaigning portion of the app as well as the project. In the past, the project was funded by Stockton’s Adjunct Faculty Oppurtunity Fund -AFOF- grant in 2020, though current budgeting concerns has led to an increased need to gain external funding for the project as well. “The inspiration for the project is to build better roads”, says Dr. Berbasov. 

By completing the necessary funding this project could be used nationwide in order to provide a software for states and counties to know exactly where damage has happened on the roads to do more preventative measures and smaller repairs, leading to a more cost effective system. Dr. Berbasov and those involved in the project are interested in developing and running crowdfunding campaigns to develop and test the app and any student could apply to aid in the project. For those interested in learning more about the project you can contact Dr. Berbasov , or check out the Smooryde app on the Google Playstore to participate in the research.