App could reduce road defects

New cost-saving device detects potholes before they occur

Holes in roads, potholes

Crumbling roads are a growing concern for motorists and councils (pic: Terry Murden)

A group of technical experts have come up with a device that detects potholes in roads before they occur – potentially saving the public purse millions in repair costs.

Currently, the majority of potholes have to be found manually by foot or vehicular patrols, or simply by awaiting complaints from the public. This is costly and inefficient for roads authorities and unsafe for drivers.

Road Intelligence, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and the University of Edinburgh have developed an app that draws on earthquake technology to predict where road defects are likely to develop.

The new road defect detection system developed during this project will use data collected via an accelerometer – which is already a standard part of most smartphones.

The lead partner on the project, Road Intelligence is a new spin-out company of xDesign, an app development firm. The project, funded by CSIC, has been developed on the back of a successful research and development project between xDesign and Transport Scotland, which was supported by the Scottish Government’s CivTech Programme.  

Road Intelligence will now focus on developing and commercialising the road defect detection system, with the aim of creating mobile apps that detect road defects and predict potholes.

Alan Bird, project manager at Road Intelligence, said: “Our aim is to create apps which will save the public purse significant sums of money by reducing the need for manual inspection of road defects, reducing the amount paid out in pothole damage claims, and providing a ‘live’ road condition report.

“We are now talking to two local authorities who want to use the product which we expect to be market-ready early in 2019. We hope their experience will allow us to explore the system’s full potential.

“Our initial investigations into international markets suggest significant interest in this new technology, which is great news for the future of the company. We expect it to increase our revenue by £5m over the next five years, allowing us to create 25 high value jobs over the same timeframe.”

Rob Baxter from EPCC, the University’s supercomputing and big data centre, said: “It’s very exciting to see this move from concept to live application in such a short space of time, and is a brilliant example of the kind of collaboration we’ll soon see more of under the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.”

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