US scientists invent ‘smart van’ to detect potholes on roads

US scientists invent 'smart van' to detect potholes on roads 6th July 2015

Potholes are the bane of British drivers year after year, with the holes in roads causing damage to as many as a quarter of all cars on the roads annually. 

The Highways Industry reported earlier this year that potholes cost drivers a collective £730 million in repairs last year alone, with problems such as damaged tyres and suspension among the most prevalent. 

However, a team of scientists in the US may have just stumbled across a solution to this problematic issue, with a new invention having rolled onto the streets of Boston in the last week. The team at Northeastern University has reportedly invented a smart van that can detect potholes, as well as predicting where new holes could develop in the future. 

Making use of Versatile Onboard Traffic Embedded Roaming Sensors (Voters) which are attached to the tyres and detect a change in air pressure as the vehicle drives over bumps in the road, the van can easily detect where potholes have already formed and inform local authorities to allow them to deploy a team to resolve the issue. 

However, it is when it comes to predicting where they may crop up in the future that the real genius of the van becomes apparent. It makes use of a radar system that looks for pockets of air just below the road surface. 

This flags up any damage to the road that can't yet be seen, and it can be indicative of an area where the road surface may later crack, leaving a noticeable and potentially damaging pothole. 

The van is also much faster than employing human inspectors to look out for potholes on the road. In Boston, the trial has seen it examine some 15 miles of road in just four days. By way of contrast, it takes human inspectors a full year to cover the whole city. 

Michael Collins, Beverly's commissioner of public services and engineering, told the Boston Globe: "It's so much better than what we were previously able to do.

"This is absolutely the way of the future." 

Posted by Danielle Barge