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Where we’re going, we do need roads: AI technology to find potholes to be introduced in Wales

28 Apr 2021 2 minute read
Picture by _ChrisUK (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Emily Gill, local democracy reporter

New AI technology could be used to detect potholes in Welsh roads.

The development programme is being run as a collaboration with Durham County Council and is being funded by the government’s GovTech Catalyst fund. A pilot scheme could be set up on Blaenau Gwent council vehicles later this year.

A report on the programme says: “If successful in detecting defects and potholes, it is hoped that with machine learning it will be possible to develop predictive models to consider degradation of road condition and predict when intervention may be required.

“This will support the service area to consider the business case of short term patching versus long term investment in repairing road surfaces.”

The programme was set up so the council could see how to utilise and support services by collecting data using council vehicles.

The trial will conclude in the summer and this will determine whether the service could be deployed across more vehicles in the county borough.


Speaking in a scrutiny meeting Cllr John Morgan asked whether it could be used on different types of vehicles, including those that use back roads.

The team manager for regeneration opportunities, Amy Taylor, said the council would be trialling the technology on different vehicles but the idea is “it would be deployable on any vehicle”.

The programme has been divided up into two phases. The first was a feasibility study, where £50,000 was granted to develop the idea over a three-month period.

This phase confirmed “that detection of potholes, road markings and road defects was possible”.

The report says: “It also suggested that further development and training of the machine learning models would enable size and depth of defects to be established and mapped across the borough.”

Phase two, the research and development phase, is still ongoing. This was awarded to two suppliers. They were awarded £500,000 each to develop a prototype and test it out.

A decision on whether to roll it out across more vehicles will come after phase two ends in the summer.

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