Capture This: High-Tech Road Selfies

With over 4 million miles of paved road in the US, the job of creating, assessing, and maintaining roads throughout our country is dynamic and exciting. And every now and then, something comes along that really changes the landscape of our paved thoroughfares.

Enter RoadBotics. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this new company, established in December of 2016, was created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon Robotic Institute. Using the artificial intelligence technology of autonomous vehicles, they developed computer vision software to assess and manage road conditions.

The premise is as simple as the technology is complex. An app and a smartphone are installed into any chosen vehicle to gather data. A municipality might use government vehicles such as a trash trucks, which travel just about every road in the city. Another option is to mount the technology in private vehicles, such as those owned by Uber and Lyft drivers. As the vehicle drives, the camera begins to continuously capture and store images, combining them with the GPS locations of where they were taken. These images are then analyzed frame by frame and pixel by pixel to identify nuances in the roadway such as bumps, dips, or cracks. The data is then fed into an interactive mapping program called Roadway and assigned color values designating the condition of the road. Green means excellent, while red means some serious attention is needed in those parts.

Once the data is on Roadway, users can pull up actual photos of the areas they’re interested in. The entire city or county can be viewed at a glance, or a particular stretch of roadway can be zeroed in on. The mapping can be used to address short term maintenance and long range planning efforts.

The impact of this technology is tremendous. More than 90 cities, towns, and counties across the US and Australia have jumped on board. For instance, the city of Detroit has recently contracted with RoadBotics to analyze their more than 2,600 miles of asphalt. What was once done manually and quite tediously by employees over the course of months or even years, and which was subject to each individual’s opinion, has been focused down to a much quicker and considerably less subjective snapshot of the conditions. This allows cities and governments to more effectively allocate their resources. Also exciting is the ability to translate this technology into identifying other areas in need of attention, such as sidewalks, street signs, and more.

You can be sure Black Diamond Paving and Concrete will continue to keep up to date with our ever growing, evolving industry. We love using the latest and the greatest to ensure that your property is in tip top condition. For now though, that means we will continue to send out a very experienced and extremely nice human to help assess and meet your paving needs.