Surrey trials AI cameras to spot potholes

Screenshot showing an AI camera highlighting a pothole
Screenshot from Surrey County Council video, showing the AI camera highlighting a pothole.
By Julie Armstrong, Local Democracy Reporter, 19 March 2021

Surrey County Council is trialling the use of artificial intelligence cameras to spot potholes.

All their Highways vans’ dashboards have been kitted out with the AI technology, which can home in on and measure the ruts in the road that so vex drivers.

The council fixes an average of 50,000 potholes each year and it is thought the use of machine learning will help it to stay on top of deteriorating roads.

As well as assessing the defects’ severity, sensors measure the road temperature to know when gritting is needed.

Cllr Matt Furniss, Surrey’s cabinet member for highways, said: “We are well aware that potholes are an area of concern for our residents and want to do all we can to help improve this situation.

“The aspiration is to determine if these technologies can be used to give us data more quickly and with better degrees of accuracy from which to make decisions about our highway network.”

At the start of this month as a result of the cold snap, the council had reports of nearly 400 road defects a day across the county, and on one day received as many as 586.

Cllr Furniss said they had increased the number of gangs dealing with safety defects to 22, which compares with a “business as usual number of around 10-15”, and “are currently fixing all reported priority 2 and 3 defects [those which should be fixed within one week or four weeks] in an average of 3.6 working days”.

The Department for Transport does not take traffic volumes into account when determining how much to fund local governments, and Surrey’s council leader Tim Oliver thinks this is unfair.

“We get the same pound per mile as everywhere else, and yet we get far more traffic,” he said.