Here's a Depressing Snapshot of Our Nation's Garbage Roads

Image: Lvl5

This nation, this once great and glorious nation, has been cursed with a plague for the past 20 years. It is the curse of the big wheel and the skinny, worthless tire. We need to bring back big, meaty, beautiful sidewalls, and this map showing where the worst roads in America are shows precisely why.

A pox of potholes is upon us, with crumbling infrastructure everywhere we go. Technically, Michigan is the state with the worst roads in the entire country, while Florida technically has the best roads. And it’s not just Michigan – see all that red, there? Michigan, thanks to our pretty much entirely arbitrary state borders, is a sea of red, but that sea extends into Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and it’s a little tough to be like “oh, well Michigan is crap! Everywhere else is better!” if only because states like New York have their average crappy road score offset by a few counties with good roads.

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This map of our now-decrepit nation, starved of funds to fix its roads for decades in order that a dwindling few of us could afford private jets to fly over them, comes to you courtesy of a company called Lvl5, which pays ride hailing app drivers for road data through yet another app, it writes in a press release:

Lvl5 captures hundreds of thousands of miles of video data every month through their iPhone dashcam app, Payver. The app pays users up to $0.05 per mile to record their driving using their cell phone. The company is already working with many Uber and Lyft drivers across the US who run the dashcam app throughout the day. As cars are driving around, they are “vacuuming” up data about the roads. The company then uses its computer vision algorithm to translate that crowdsourced footage into maps which rate road quality and show cities where problems exist.

The country-wide dataset spans over five million miles of Payver driving data from the last year. The methodology for ranking these videos included randomly selecting video frames from the videos (in total, 15 million frames sampled), and excluding all but the surface of the road from predictions by a neural network. Their neural network measures quality in four distinct areas: road paint fading, pavement cracking, potholes, and surface flatness. The data was normalized by frame density, and filtered to remove areas with not enough data.

Weirdly, Lvl5 says that the crappiness of roads isn’t correlated with higher gas taxes or higher construction spending, although that conclusion seems to be a bit erroneous. Of course Hawaii and Florida have the best roads and don’t have to spend a ton of money, because they never see any snow, which means they don’t have to pay for plowing, and which also means that they don’t have to fix as many potholes created by ice. And of course Vermont has to spend more money and still has crappier roads, because Vermont is nothing but a hellish snow-and-ice-filled post-apocalyptic very-cozy hellscape for 14 months out of the year.

There’s some other odd things throwing off the data, too. Minnesota, for instance, has some of the best roads in the country, just behind sunny states like California and ahead of even sunnier states like Arizona, according to Lvl5. But here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune on the state of Minnesota’s roads recently:

Minnesota’s beleaguered road system received the lowest grade of all — a D-plus. Roads across the state are in poor condition, and congestion in the Twin Cities means motorists spend an average of 41 hours in rush-hour traffic every year, a slog that costs drivers $1,332 each in commuting expenses annually.

The state says roads will be underfunded by nearly $18 billion over the next 20 years, but revenue sources to fix then, including the gas tax, remain stagnant.

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So maybe take the data with a grain of salt, and use it more as a general indicator rather than a definitive ranking of Whose Life Is The Worst. If you live in any of the states with bad roads and the chart tells you that you have bad roads, know in your heart that what you feel is true. If it tells you something that’s the opposite of your confirmation bias, feel free to willfully ignore it.

Go check the rest of the data out here.

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About the author

Michael Ballaban

Deputy Editor, Jalopnik. 2002 Lexus IS300 Sportcross.

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