The latest weapon in the fight against potholes? Your smartphone

Keeping tabs on the quality of roadways isn’t an easy job. With tens of thousands of miles for public officials to monitor, and a limited budget to do so with, it’s no surprise that some public roads can fall into a state of disrepair that makes them unpleasant to drive on.

That’s something a tech company with the brilliant (if you love puns as much as we do!) name RoadBotics is hoping to help solve. It has developed some smart AI algorithms that work with the cameras found in smartphones to continuously monitor road conditions as drivers travel around the United States. Its deep learning technology is designed to spot the kind of anomalies that experienced roadway inspectors are trained to identify. It then uses this data to create a dynamic map so that public officials can understand the status of their roads, streets, bike paths, walkways and bridges in almost real-time.

“We use a standard smartphone and any vehicle, in combination with our cloud-based deep learning platform, to assess the quality of roadways including road surfaces, signage and other common features of urban, rural roads and highways,” RoadBotics CEO Mark DeSantis told Digital Trends. “A standard cell phone is mounted anywhere on a dash or windshield with the phone’s camera pointed forward. The app is turned on and begins collecting video data. That video data is stored on the phone until the the phone sees a friendly Wi-Fi, at which point all of the image data is automatically uploaded to our platform, which then produces a multicolored road network assessment map.”

The technology is currently being used in 22 municipalities, towns, cities, and counties across eight states. DeSantis said that the first deployment outside the U.S. is set to be announced soon.

“Currently, we collect the data on behalf of our customers to add to our customer’s convenience as well as learn in detail some of the challenges with collecting data,” he said. “However, we’ve been testing several fleet, customer and even crowd-sourced data collection tools.”

Whether private citizens would be willing to collect data for their public officials in exchange for better maintained roadways remains to be seen. Hey, maybe local governments could throw in a small tax credit as a thank you to users who were happy to help!


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