West Lothian Council is pioneering digital mapping of its entire road network through an Artificial Intelligence (AI) app. It’s charting new ways to save time and money and identify trouble spots quicker.
The AI system was described as the council “having its own personal Google map” and enables roads engineers to build the most up to date picture of road conditions and identify what needs fixed and where.
“It’s a brilliant piece of kit”, senior roads engineer Kenneth Brown told a meeting of the council’s Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP).
A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “A key element of good asset management is having good data and in 2020 the Roads Maintenance team completed a condition survey of the entire road network using a brand new Artificial Intelligence app.
The council’s Customer and Digital Programme Board provided £14,000 funding from the Digital Capital Fund to allow the roads team to trial the use of AI and see how it can assist with repairing the roads in West Lothian.
“The system is supplied by a company called Vaisala and uses a mobile app to collect video footage.
Once the data has been uploaded, artificial intelligence takes over which can identify over 30 road defects such as potholes and cracking.
It can also recognise different types of road sign and to ensure there are no privacy issues all vehicles and people caught on camera are blacked out. The system is also password protected and only accessible by council staff.
The spokesman said: “In the past, road surveys would have been undertaken from a slow moving vehicle by a team of two making notes as they travel. With the app one person can collect a lot more data, with a higher degree of accuracy and there is no disruption to other road users.
“The data is made available to our staff on a web portal, which allows them to watch the video and download a large number of useful reports. The information is now being used to plan future maintenance activities ranging in scale from pothole repairs and repainting road markings to major carriageway resurfacing schemes. This will ensure that we are making the best use of the available roads budget, targeting the roads which are in most need of repair.
“The pilot project has been very successful.”
Chair of the Environment PDSP and Executive councillor for the environment, Tom Conn said: “This has been a promising project providing a unique opportunity to collect more data on the condition of roads across West Lothian without causing disrupting the journeys of other road users. The accuracy of the data collected will help to reinforce planning for future improvements and maintenance work across the West Lothian road network.”
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