Amey and Kent County Council use buses to spot pot holes

06 November 2020
Image of a bus, with an overlay of boxes outlining potholes.

A road maintenance trial using a system that combines cameras and

sensors to spot potholes and a range of carriageway defects, is being carried out by Kent County Council (KCC) and Amey using Arriva buses as part of the ADEPT Smart Places Live Labs programme.

The trial has seen devices fitted to a range of KCC vans and Arriva buses across the county that are monitoring vehicles as they travel along the road and collecting imagery and detailed data on the condition of the road network.

KCC and contractor Amey is working with Route Reports, a company that provides live and predictive analytics for the road and rail industries as part of the trial.

KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “The data collected by the cameras will be combined to produce a real time view of Kent’s road network condition and allow us to make accurate predictions on where severe defects may appear up to three months in advance so that they can be fixed before causing issues. The device uses either a dash cam or existing bus CCTV cameras to collect imagery such as potholes, cracking, and other road defects on the highway and footway.

“It also collects information on a range of KCC assets, including signage, line markings and street furniture to ensure that the Kent Highways team is kept updated as to the current and future status of the road network.”

The trial also aims to integrate with Kent’s existing road management system to speed up the time from detection to repair.

Sunita Dulai, Head of Business Improvement for Transport Infrastructure at Amey, said: “This fantastic collaborative sensorisation trial is using existing modes of transport to identify and capture data on road defects as they navigate across the Kent network. The data these sensors and cameras will collect will be invaluable to the teams who will then be able to carry out immediate repairs and plan for future maintenance repair works.”

With the new technology, highways’ officers will have the ability to quickly and remotely estimate length, width and depth of each defect as vehicles travel along the road.

Route Reports CEO, Connell McLaughlin, said: “We’re getting an amazing opportunity through the ADEPT Live Labs program by working with Kent County Council and Amey on this trial. Our solution uses a first-of-a-kind combination of sensors and computer vision that hasn’t previously been attainable at our level of accuracy in a cost-effective device. We’re also trialling unique stereo cameras that develop a 3D perspective of the network as the vehicle is in motion, allowing for even better accuracy. These groundbreaking new features will enhance KCC’s understanding of the road network in Kent, and will also accelerate the further rollout of our technology across the UK.”

To see what these sensors look like and how they are being used in the trial, watch this short film by following the link

 The trial is part of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) SMART Places Live Labs programme.

It aims to look at how effective technology can be for highway inspections with the project potentially proving the case for it to be used more widely in the future.

Live Labs Programme Director, Giles Perkins said: “Making best use of all of our available assets is a key part of thinking innovatively. Using public transport and other fleets, equipped with cutting edge sensors means that potholes can be identified and fixed more quickly leading to improved and more resilient networks. Kent are demonstrating that lateral thinking and partnership working can deliver vastly improved outcomes for local communities”

KCC is responsible for the inspection and maintenance of 5,000 miles of road and 4,000 miles of footpaths; along with 122,000 streetlights, 500,000 trees, 250,000 drains and 2,200 bridges. Each year, the council has over 100,000 enquiries about highways.

ADEPT represents local authority, county, unitary and metropolitan Directors. The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme is a two-year £22.9 million project funded by the Department for Transport and supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP. Nine local authorities are working on projects to introduce digital innovation across SMART mobility, transport, highways, maintenance, data, energy and communications. Live Labs is part of ADEPT’s SMART Places programme to support the use of digital technology in place-based services.