As first spotted by AutoBlog, Google was recently granted a patent covering a system capable of detecting road quality conditions, which in theory could allow it to deliver warnings of potholes and other road quality issues to its users.
The patent describes using a number of sensors in the vehicle, in addition to potentially adding other sensors to a vehicle’s shocks and elsewhere, and transmitting the data through a mobile network. Google would in return use the data for Google Maps to improve driving directions and potentially warn users of dangerous road conditions. It’s also data that would undoubtedly come in handy for Google’s self-driving car project.
Google Maps already offers similar warnings for things like accidents, construction, road closures, and more via user submissions in the Waze mapping app it acquired along with a few other sources. But having data compiled directly from the vehicles would likely allow it to have more accurate and up to date data for much larger areas compared to user submitted data.
You can view the Google patent in full here.