Pothole-repairing robots that detect cracks and fix roads automatically will be on Britain’s streets by 2021, scientists at the University of Liverpool have claimed.
The new technology may save tens of millions of pounds on repair costs for UK motorists after a study found they spent £1.25 billion last year repairing pothole damage.
Using cameras and laser-mapping technology, the AI driven devices can detect cracks and potholes in the road’s surface before rendering a 3D geometrical image of the damage.
This image is then sent to local authorities to assess the extent of repair needed.
With mathematical modelling and integrated weather readings the machine can also predict how long it will take before a crack evolves into a pothole.
In cases of smaller potholes, the robot can automatically fill the hole with a sealing mixture and save the need for a human engineer to repair the damage in person.
Robotiz3d, who has developed the technology in partnership with the University of Liverpool, said the robots will remove the ‘inaccuracy’ of ‘human experience’.
Lisa Layzell, the company’s CEO, said: “We understand no other technology can do all of this automatically.”
“In our current ‘Covid environment’, it has been very difficult for councils to carry out this work manually.”
“This kind of work is manually done, based on human experience. People would look at cracks and make a judgement of whether it needed to be repaired now or a month later.”
“It is inaccurate because people’s experiences are different.”
The mapping and scanning function of the robots will be trialled on Britain’s roads within the next six months and could be incorporated into taxis and bin collectors, researchers said.
However, the automatic repair function of the robots will not be in use until 2021.
The environmental benefits of the technology are considerable.
A 2019 study by Rutgers University found that preventative maintenance on roads can cut greenhouse gas emissions by two per cent.
Smoother road surfaces will also reduce the wear and tear on tyres and help to cut down on the levels of microplastic pollution found in rivers and the sea from tyre fragments.
A report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2017 found that tyres account for more than one-quarter – 28 per cent – of microplastic waste in the world’s oceans.