Tackling the pothole problem with AI and robotics

21st November 2023
Paige West

A UK-based startup has developed an autonomous robot that leverages artificial intelligence to detect and repair cracks and potholes on roads.

This development comes as a response to the nearly two million potholes annually repaired on UK roads, a number expected to rise due to ageing infrastructure, increasing road users, and extreme weather.

Traditional methods of pothole repair are labour-intensive and struggle to efficiently address this growing issue. However, Robotiz3d has created technology to automate and enhance road maintenance, aiming to make the process quicker, safer, and more economical.

Robotiz3d, situated at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory, has harnessed AI and advanced robotics to develop this autonomous vehicle. The vehicle employs advanced detection and repair technologies within its AI robotics system, allowing it to assess the severity of road defects and seal them proactively.

Originating from patented research at the University of Liverpool, this technology can analyse pothole geometry and collect measurement data during operation. By combining this data with a unique AI-driven prediction algorithm, local authorities can more accurately forecast road conditions and prioritise preventative maintenance.

This innovation is expected to diminish time, cost, CO2 emissions, and material waste involved in road repairs, while enhancing the longevity and safety of roads.

Robotiz3d's journey from concept to market has been facilitated by its location at the Daresbury Laboratory in Sci Tech Daresbury, Liverpool City Region. Here, the company has accessed advanced manufacturing facilities and business support, including a bespoke laboratory for developing and testing its autonomous vehicle prototype. The company is now in the official testing phase, moving closer to commercialising its technology.

Throughout its development, Robotiz3d has benefited from dedicated business support, including guidance on health and safety requirements and networking opportunities.

Lisa Layzell, CEO, and Co-Founder at Robotiz3d, shared her perspective: “This is the first autonomous technology of this kind developed specifically to tackle the pothole crisis which plagues many parts of the country, and which is estimated to have cost more than £1 billion to repair over the last decade. For Robotiz3d, locating to STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory has provided us with a technologically sophisticated environment to operate in. The expertise available, both in technology and business development, have been invaluable as we move towards the commercialisation phase of our business.”

Paul Vernon, Head of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, also commented on the project’s significance: “For a small company, turning an initial idea into a viable commercial reality that can compete on a global scale can be an enormous challenge. At STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, we are providing companies with affordable access to the best skills and facilities in engineering R&D so that they can develop their new technologies faster, more affordably, and with less risk. I’m extremely proud to be providing the Robotiz3d with the right environment and support to develop and commercialise this world-leading technology, that has the potential to transform the management and safety of our roads and highways. Robotiz3d is an exceptional example of how cutting edge technologies can be applied to the benefit of both society and the UK economy.”

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