City dwellers can expect their cities to become smarter and much easier to live thanks to the efforts of RoadBotics and URBAN-X. The age-old problem of potholes that tax your driving skills and render you totally helpless on getting a flat tire can come close to being ended. The originators of RoadBotics have found an effective solution to tackle your driving worries; a technology that detects and lists each crag and fissure in the roads, notifying the relevant authorities about such problematic road portions via an interface that shows every aspect of the problem right up to its tiniest detail.
RoadBotics is one among the list of companies who have been financed and guided by URBAN-X, which promotes start-ups focused on making life in cities powered by Urban Us and MINI, easier by helping to eliminate challenges facing its population. Following brief gives an idea of how RoadBotics has assisted in reducing the road bumps in its journey to making smart cities of the future and the lead taken by URBAN-X in helping they get there.
RoadBotics CEO, Mark DeSantis stated that their source of inspiration has been the rulers of Rome dating back to about 500 BC during the time the first roads were built. Regular inspection used to take place for ensuring the road repair and maintenance. A horse driven chariot would carry an inspector on a tour of the Appian Way in Rome and he would note down the road condition and inform the right people for fixing the problem. The only difference today and then according to DeSantis was a change in the mode of transport; today it is a pickup truck or a Ford F-150 and then it was a chariot.
A significant example of the clear-cut advantage offered by RoadBotics can be understood when a manual survey of the roads was undertaken in Savannah, Georgia. The 700-mile road stretch was inspected manually by interns working part-time on the project and taking about 6000 hours spread over three years to complete. The project became too expensive and lacked objectivity.
RoadBotics found a way out of this time-consuming dilemma that had affected Rome 2500 years ago and cities like Savannah and more in today’s times. An efficient smartphone mounted on the dashboard of a vehicle holds the key to the effective solution offered. The vehicle moves around the total network of streets within the city; in three cities or cameras are held by vehicles of the city’s street sweepers and these capture video footage of problematic conditions of the road and further uploading them to the Cloud. A smart way of using current resources! The ratings to the road condition varying from pristine to very bad are given by the high-tech software of Roadbotics. This uses superior image processing and in-depth learning to develop the road surface models for rating purposes. This makes for better evaluation and analysis of the road conditions by a government employee. He can choose a 10-foot single road stretch and view the road surface very minutely noting common asphalt problems like those of alligator cracks which herald the development of potholes and determine the speed of deterioration of the street surface from the earlier collected data. The system’s capability enables him to analyze the road issues in depth and also compare the same with similarly structured cities.
The year 2018 saw the signing of a deal between RoadBotics and Savannah for mapping about 50% of their street network on a trial basis. In no less than a few months data detailing the road, network condition was given by RoadBotics along with a proposal for mapping the remaining road network. Use of this technology on a consistent basis will make Savannah equipped to monitor the condition of their road network more effectively which will help them to satisfy their ultimate goal of replacing it entirely in a span of 20 years. Shearhouse, an official of the Savannah City Manager’s office commented that change is very hard to bring about in government departments but this change came about easily. This has turned into a movement which has brought about very positive results as far as the assessment of roads in Savannah was concerned.
However, merely holding a revolutionary idea is not enough for it to come to fruition; it should be marketable too. URBAN-X comes into the picture here providing funds up to $100,000 for a unit of 10 companies. Besides this, another important requirement filled in by them is with regard to providing mentorships and expertise in engineering and design to start-ups which are committed to helping surmount challenges faced by city dwellers. Though seed capital in some amounts was raised by DeSantis it was not easy to raise funds for technology related to infrastructure. Promoting his product to a vast audience including the likes of investors and the users became possible only after meeting up with URBAN-X.
DeSantis was absolutely impressed with the professionalism of URBAN-X which gives support of ‘in-residence experts’ to assist in the development of product, testing, raising funds and deployment. Traveling outside country for meeting potential clients and partners became possible for him. The city of Munich, people at BMW are just to name a few potential client sources DeSantis got to meet. He also learned the technique of integrating his product with the emerging technology of MINI relating to its autonomous vehicles. Information gathered by driverless cars could be used for better evaluation of roads. The number of RoadBotics’ customers increased five times from an initial 15 after its association with URBAN-X.
URBAN-X fosters a community bond amongst the innovators, a very important factor that helps to soothe away common concerns and worries. The credibility of RoadBotics has increased manifold with its clients spread in two countries and 15 states. RoadBotics is eyeing how its data can be effectively deployed in situations other than for assessing road conditions like power lines, guardrails, roadside undergrowth, sidewalks and many such features common to daily urban life and that offer visual appeal and need regular maintenance. RoadBotics along with the professionals of URBAN-X are contributing in a big way towards a smarter city and a brighter life for its inhabitants.