Street maintenance can be a Sisyphean task. Like in the myth of the Greek king sentenced to push a boulder up a hill for all of eternity, the work of paving and filling potholes and cracks is never really done.
But Pittsburgh company RoadBotics is working to make the task a little less maddening for municipalities, by creating a detailed, interactive map of road conditions.
Each of the company's drivers is equipped with two smartphones. One phone is affixed on the car dashboard and continuously takes a high definition video of the roadway. The other phone tells the driver the route to take, following municipality-owned and maintained roads.
After the drive is complete, the video is uploaded to a company cloud. Then, the artificial intelligence takes over.
"It basically chops up that video into images," said Shane Witt, a business development representative at RoadBotics. "So you get an image for every 10 foot length of road."
The AI then focuses in on the road, looking for about two dozen types of road distresses. Every crack, pothole and maintenance issue affects how a road's condition is rated on the interactive map.
"So a director of public works or municipal manager can go into that map and see an all-encompassing view of what the condition of their road network looks like," Witt said. That allows municipalities to better prioritize which roads to resurface, and which could perhaps make it through another winter.
The company was formed in 2016, and they've since partnered with more than 100 governments and municipalities in the United States and Australia. Municipalities typically sign contracts with RoadBotics that has the company come back and re-map the roads on a yearly or semi-regular basis.