MONEY Autos

Google Is Developing a System to Map Potholes Using a Car’s GPS

Google Pothole GPS Map Patent
Boston Globe/Getty Images Boston Public Works uses a Smartphone app to report potholes. Google has a new solution in the works.

It filed a patent for "systems and methods for monitoring and reporting road quality" last week.

Everyone hates potholes. They can spill your coffee, tax your suspension, and if you’re a cyclist, they can easily leave you with a broken collarbone.

Last week, Google filed a patent to help solve pothole problems, describing a system that uses the GPS from cars’ navigation systems in conjunction with another bump sensor that detects vertical movement to map out potholes. Then, the system uploads the data to the cloud.

Fixing potholes is simple—municipalities and states simply fill them in—but locating them is inefficient, usually relying on people to fill out a form and report them individually. If Google puts this technology into cars, an entire database of road condition would be available to the Department of Transportation, enabling it easily identify and prioritize problem areas.

As Autoblog notes, a patent isn’t a guarantee Google will actually develop this into a reality, but judging from Google’s forays into self-driving cars it seems likely.

TIME Innovation

This Simple Procedure Can Give Amputees Bionic Limbs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. With a simple procedure, amputees can have brain-controlled bionic limbs.

By Eric Sofge in Popular Science

2. Is Starbucks helping to rebuild America’s middle class?

By Amanda Ripley in the Atlantic

3. Now a satellite can tell you when a bridge is about to fail.

By the European Space Agency

4. We can get cheaper wind power from bladeless, vibrating turbines.

By Liz Stinson in Wired

5. Can learning machines predict the next pandemic?

By David Schultz in Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

How Banning Mobile Phones Can Boost Grades

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. High schools can boost grades by banning mobile phones.

By Jamie Doward in the Guardian

2. The “Solar Suitcase” is saving mothers and babies.

By Ajay Singh in TakePart

3. Can peer pressure make people go green?

By Per Espen Stoknes in Salon

4. Infused with bacteria, this concrete heals itself when it cracks.

By Andrew Stewart in CNN

5. Here’s a solution for the iron deficiency that impacts millions around the world.

By Philippa Roxby in BBC News

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Why It Might Be Time to Rethink Motherhood

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Motherhood is a cultural invention. It might be time to rethink it.

By Kathleen McCartney in the Boston Globe

2. You should want Facebook to give away your data.

By Tara E. Buck in EdTech

3. Do we have Alzheimer’s completely wrong?

By Turna Ray at Science Friday

4. On the brink of becoming Ebola-free, Liberia should embrace its survivors.

By AllAfrica

5. Can an app improve America’s crumbling infrastructure?

By Ashley Tate in NationSwell

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Plans 12,000-Strong Security Force to Safeguard Chinese Workers

A man hangs decorations on a pole next to a banner showing Pakistan's President Hussain, China's President Xi and Pakistan's PM Sharif, ahead of Xi's visit to Islamabad
Faisal Mahmood—Reuters A man hangs decorations on a pole next to a banner showing, clockwise from top left, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping, on April 19, 2015, ahead of Xi's visit to Islamabad

"Pakistan considers China’s security as our own security"

Chinese engineers traveling to Pakistan to implement the $46 billion infrastructure program signed between the two countries this week will be protected by a special security force of 12,000 men, Pakistani officials said Tuesday.

The security troops will comprise nine battalions of the Pakistani military and six wings of civilian paramilitary forces like the Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers that currently guard the country’s borders, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a statement from Pakistani military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa.

The ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day visit to Islamabad this week, includes $28 billion worth of roads, rail lines and power stations connecting the Pakistani port of Gwadar to Kashgar in China’s restive northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Islamic militant groups are a major threat along many parts of the proposed road link, and a military official said the special security forces will be deployed and distributed where they are needed the most.

“Let me assure you, Mr. President, Pakistan considers China’s security as our own security,” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a speech in parliament on Tuesday.

TIME Television

Watch Ed Norton and Steve Buscemi Help John Oliver Shake Up the Debate Over Infrastructure

Oliver called on some high-profile pals for a sexy new movie called Infrastructure

Strap on your hard hats, because John Oliver took us on a tour of the nation’s infrastructure on Last Week Tonight. What is infrastructure exactly? According to Oliver, it’s roads, bridges, levies, overpasses — or anything that could be destroyed in an action movie.

While discussing the state of the roads for 30 minutes seems dull, to convince viewers that infrastructure is worth talking about, Oliver went on a quick tour of the nation’s dams. According to Oliver, the average dam is 52 years old and has something deeply broken inside of it (“like Botox users and clog dancers,” per Oliver). They also hold back millions of gallons of water and, according to Oliver, have very few inspectors, which is basically a recipe for an awesome action movie sequence.

As Oliver points out, when infrastructure breaks down, things go very wrong, very quickly. Potholes, sink holes and bridge collapses are just a few of the nightmares that can happen when infrastructure breaks, and unfortunately, people only tend to talk about infrastructure when things go wrong — so infrastructure watching becomes a waiting game for disasters. To wit, New York’s notoriously creaky Tappan Zee bridge is described as a “hold your breath” bridge by one official.

According to Oliver, people on both sides of the political spectrum agree that rebuilding infrastructure is important, but maintaining the nation’s roads, bridges and dams isn’t politically exciting enough to gain traction in Congress. As an example, Oliver pointed to the Highway Trust Fund, which will expire on May 31st unless Congress steps in to fund it. Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax, which funds the Highway Trust Fund, in decades and seemingly no politician is working to correct that, preferring to work on issues that are more politically popular.

Luckily, Oliver has a solution: Infrastructure the movie, with stars like Edward Norton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Steve Buscemi, Hope Davis, Campbell Scott and many more bringing some much-needed sex appeal and Hollywood pizazz to the important topic.

Read next: Watch John Oliver Take Elected Judges to Court

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The U.S. wants to hack your phone because it doesn’t have the real spies it needs.

By Patrick G. Eddington at Reuters

2. Eight universities account for half of all history professors in the U.S. How did that happen?

By Joel Warner and Aaron Clauset in Slate

3. Bill Gates is investing in low-tech impact entrepreneurs in India.

By David Bank in Entrepreneur

4. “Liquid biopsy” can detect cancer from a few drops of blood.

By Michael Standaert in MIT Technology Review

5. Let’s build the infrastructure to make microfinance institutions into true innovation hubs.

By Jessica Collier in Medium

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Congress

Know Right Now: Pipeline Bill Sets Up Obama Veto Showdown

The president has said he will veto the bill should it pass

Congress has passed a bill to construct the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which will allow oil to flow between the tar sands of Alberta, Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. But President Obama has pledged to veto the bill.

Watch today’s Know Right Now to find out everything you need to know about what happens next.

MONEY The Economy

The 2015 State of the Union Address In Under 2 Minutes

President Barack Obama highlighted the recovering economy as well as proposals for free community college, increasing trade with Cuba, and building more infrastructure.

MONEY Taxes

As Gas Prices Go Down, Likelihood of Higher Gas Taxes Goes Up

It's no wonder that many are calling for higher gas taxes lately: Gas prices are the cheapest they've been in years, so a hike in gas taxes is less likely to drive drivers nuts.

Raising taxes is never popular. But if there was ever a way to make a tax increase more palatable to Americans, it would be with a tax hike that didn’t seem like much of a tax hike. Like, say, one that was optimally planned so that even after the tax increase was instituted, the average household wouldn’t feel like it was paying much more out of pocket than it was in the recent past.

Just such a rare opportunity is now upon us. Gas prices have plummeted—dipping under $2 per gallon in some markets, with further decreases likely—and some want to take advantage of the situation by jacking up the gas tax at both the state and federal levels. Depending on how high taxes are raised, drivers might very well still be paying less to fill up than they were a few months or a year ago. So in a way, at least theoretically, this is a tax hike that wouldn’t feel like a typical tax hike.

A recent Washington Post column pointed out that the federal gas tax has been stuck at a flat 18.4¢ since 1993. At the time, the price of a gallon of regular was about $1. “It’s been a generation since gas taxes were increased at all,” Paul Bledsoe, a senior fellow on energy at the German Marshall Fund, told the Post. “So they are incredibly low by historic levels.”

Over the years, many have called for increases to the federal gas tax, which has not kept up with inflation. “Inflation has effectively reduced the [gas] tax rate by about one third” over the last two decades, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation noted earlier this year. Most states have flat gas taxes as well, and critics say the revenues collected are falling well short of what’s needed to address our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. “At the state and local levels, gas taxes cover less than half of state and local transportation spending,” said Tax Foundation economist Joseph Henchman.

Again, there’s nothing really new about calls to raise more funds to fix roads and other infrastructure needs at the national and state levels. What is new, however, is that gas is the cheapest it’s been in years, and that projections indicate per-gallon prices will remain well under $3 indefinitely. Predictions call for a national average of $2.94 per gallon next year, which would be roughly 45¢ less than 2014 and 70¢ less what drivers typically paid in 2012.

Hence the fresh push to raise gas taxes while prices at the pump are inexpensive. As Elaine S. Povich of the Pew Charitable Trusts observed recently:

“Cheap gasoline makes such levies more politically palatable, since consumers are less likely to notice the extra burden when they are filling up.”

It must be noted that while the federal gas tax hasn’t budged in two decades, state gas taxes (and other local taxes that help support roads and infrastructure) have been increased fairly regularly. Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and West Virginia are among the states where gas taxes were hiked this year or last, and discussions are in the works to raise state gas taxes in Iowa, Utah, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and beyond. Data from the American Petroleum Institute shows that nationally, drivers pay an average of 49.28¢ per gallon when state and federal levies are added up.

While it’s unsurprising that environmental supporters and academics such as Mississippi State’s Sid Salter are renewing cries for gas tax hikes while gas prices are cheap, it’s particularly noteworthy that some Republicans seem in favor of tax increases at this opportune moment in time as well.

Last month, U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) actually criticized President Obama for refusing to consider a gas tax increase over the years. “I always thought that was ironic, that he’s willing to raise every other tax,” Thune said to the Rapid City Journal. “And then the one that actually pays for something you can see a direct benefit from, he doesn’t want to talk about it.”

More recently, Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI), who is retiring soon, it must be noted, announced he is sponsoring a bill to raise the federal gas tax by 15¢ to 33¢ by 2013. “No one likes taxes,” Petri said in a Huffington Post interview in early December:

“But the issue is whether we should pay for transportation, or cut back on spending and transportation and have less roads and poorer infrastructure, or borrow it from our kids — debt financing it and hoping someone pays the debt off at a future date. And of those choices, it seems to me that the most responsible long-term approach is to do the thing that is unpopular but necessary.”

It helps that the move won’t be quite as unpopular as it would be had the gas tax hike been introduced back when the average driver was paying $3.50 or $3.75 per gallon.

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