American roads suck. Our roadways scored a D on the American Society of Civil Engineers annual infrastructure report card because they are “crowded, frequently in poor condition, chronically underfunded, and are becoming more dangerous.” Yikes.
Since President Donald Trump’s “Great National Infrastructure Program,” where he pitched $1 trillion to repairing ailing roads, waterworks and bridges, is nowhere to be seen, researchers are taking matters into their own hands.
Take RoadBotics, a new startup out of Carnegie Mellon University: its program uses cell phone cameras propped up on car windshields to record video of road conditions, which then gets fed into an AI-algorithm. The AI determines the section of roads most in need for repairs, and produces a color-coded map that depicts where the problem areas are, Government Technology reported.
Using the map, civil engineers can better monitor roads to determine where problem areas could emerge before they turn into costly-to-fix potholes, RoadBotics CEO Mark DeSantis said in an interview with Jalopnik.
“It’s different than waiting a year or two years to look at a road—by that time you’re gonna have some bad roads,” DeSantis said. “If you’re monitoring every month, you can prevent those roads and have zero potholes.”
RoadBotics isn’t the first company to use advanced tech to help mend U.S. roads. Scientists have been working on developing magnetic asphalt that “self-heals” cracks, and putting special bacteria in concrete that produces calcium carbonate to fill up minor cracks.
DeSantis, however, believes artificial intelligence gives civil engineers an additional leg up by providing a more consistent, detailed, data-driven picture of roads that need repair. He said countries that excel in road maintenance, like Japan and Australia, have already begun using AI for assistance.
Though the government must still allocate funding to replacing seriously damaged roads, DeSantis said using AI to predict where potholes may occur before they develop is key to repairing U.S. roads.
“There’s a big difference between maintaining something and fixing it. Fixing is a temporary thing; maintaining is if you can see (road issues) sooner, you can react to them, and you can have the road last forever.”