Smart Roads: The UK will use AI to determine the condition of roads

The UK is planning to harness AI to help determine the condition of roads and where investment should be prioritised.

British drivers are well-accustomed to poor road conditions, especially potholes and the long delays in getting them fixed (one ingenious man has even come up with an innovative way of getting the council to fix them faster...)

To be fair to councils, keeping all the roads in top condition is expensive. Factors like minimising disruption along busy routes, and planning diversions, must also be considered.

Fortunately, AI is beginning to help automate this automotive dilemma.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded £2m in funding to a project using AI to examine the condition of roads, forming part of a wider £350 million funding package.

Close to 150 million HD images of the roads will be analysed by AI technology developed by North Yorkshire-based Gaist, a firm which specialises in the surveying of critical infrastructure.

Paula Claytonsmith, MD of Gaist, said:

“We are using over 146 million HD road images from our national databank and cutting-edge AI technology to assess over 96,000 miles of classified roads as part of this project. This is the largest exercise in assessing road marking readiness ever undertaken in England.

Gaist is proud to have the AI capability that puts an SME UK business at the forefront of technological advances.”

Almost 10,000 miles of roads will be analysed in total so the DfT can advise local councils where investment needs to be prioritised. The condition of road markings will be checked first, helping to ensure drivers have the information they need to make safe decisions.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling commented:

“Poor road markings pose an issue for all road users, from cyclists to motorists. Poor road marking quality can make it difficult for road users to distinguish whether they can park on the side of the road, overtake or know how wide a lane is. This means road user safety can be put at risk due to a lack of clarity. By having a stronger road map of where markings need improvement, these issues can be rectified.

This funding will allow for advanced AI learning technology to assess the condition of the markings to improve the safety of our roads for all users.”

The DfT is considering using the AI technology for assessing the conditions of the National Cycle Network, building on an audit undertaken by cycling and walking charity Sustrans. By improving the condition of cycling and walking routes, the government hopes it will encourage more people to use their cars less.

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