University of Liverpool developing automated road maintenance solution

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A technology that autonomously detects and characterises road defects such as cracks and potholes is being developed by a University of Liverpool spin-out company. 

Robotiz3d is a joint venture with A2e, a supplier of electronics hardware and software design services, that aims to improve the way road defects are detected and repaired by deploying autonomous robotic platforms powered by artificial intelligence.

According to Robotiz3d, no autonomous solutions currently exist to tackle potholes, which are estimated to have cost the UK more than £1bn to repair over the last decade. The proposed system will autonomously identify and localise potholes, as well as characterise their geometry and collect measurements on the go.

The ability to automatically deposit sealing material – fixing smaller cracks before they evolve into potholes,  coupled with a prediction algorithm to help prioritise work schedules, are anticipated to improve the safety and lifespan of road networks, make maintenance tasks Covid-resilient, and contribute to a reduction in cost, fuel consumption, emissions, and tyre waste.

Over the last decade, 18 million potholes have been filled in the UK, at a cost exceeding £1bn

Company founders Dr Paolo Paoletti and Dr Sebastiano Fichera, from the University of Liverpool’s School of Engineering, have been developing and trialling the technology over the past four years. They believe the cost of repairing all of the UK damaged roads is estimated to exceed £10bn and may take decades to complete at the current rate.

Fichera, technical director of Robotiz3d, said: “Current methods to detect and repair of potholes are labour intensive and as such are slow, unsafe, and costly to the economy and environment. The new technology we are developing will make road maintenance tasks faster, cheaper, and cleaner and ultimately make roads safer and more accessible.”

Robotiz3d will receive investment from the University of Liverpool’s Enterprise Investment Fund, alongside private equity investment from A2e. The company will be based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, a science and innovation campus near the village of Daresbury in Halton, Cheshire, England.

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