Frontline Data Systems using Suez garbage trucks and artificial intelligence to identify pot holes in Canberra roads

Canberra's garbage trucks will carry cameras to screen the roads and identify all the worst holes. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Canberra's garbage trucks will carry cameras to screen the roads and identify all the worst holes. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The crumbling state of the territory's roads and the enormous backlog in repair work across the ACT has prompted a fresh solution to identifying where problem potholes are and prioritising them digitally.

Roads ACT has signed a $19,800 deal with tech start-up Frontline Data Systems which promises to speed up the repair of thousands of potholes by analysing dashcam footage using artificial intelligence.

Under the pilot program, Suez garbage trucks will be equipped with a program inbuilt to cell phones which use their cameras to scan Canberra's roads as the trucks drive along each day on their pre-assigned household collection routes.

As each fault is detected by the camera, the artificial intelligence program will detect the depth, severity and type of problem - whether it's a crack or a hole or a subsidence - and give it a colour rating, as well as a GPS location.

That data will be uploaded at the end of each day and fed back to the Roads ACT repair crews, who can prioritise their daily work schedules to ensure the most dangerous problems get fixed first.

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The program also has a self-learning capability so if road surface problems keep emerging in the same area, it provides an alert that there may be a bigger, underlying repair issue to deal with.

Wanniassa, Greenway, Fadden and Monash have already been screened under the Frontline pilot program, and the system will be gradually expanded across the territory as more trucks are equipped with the cameras.

In a report in 2017, the ACT Auditor General found that the road repair backlog had grown by over 400 per cent in five years and the problem has significantly worsened since.

The ACT government's digital Fix My Street recording system, where residents are able to register issues about the state of their local roads and footpaths, has been inundated with complaints over the past two years as a result of localised heavy rain and an inability of repair crews to be fully mobilised during the COVID period.

Fix My Street received 3300 digital complaints about potholes across the ACT in the 2020-21 financial year.

Liberal Leader Elizabeth Lee conducted a survey this year, open to Canberrans of all five suburbs in her Kurrajong electorate, about issues with unrepaired government-owned infrastructure. She received 500 responses, with 87 per cent of people complaining about potholes and broken footpaths.

Should the Frontline pilot program prove effective, the tedious paper-based assessments of potholes and road issues using the traditional means of inspectors making notes on spreadsheets and advising crews of their weekly work schedules would be phased out in favour of a digitised rating system, which is updated on a regular basis.

ACT City Services has a $525 million budget allocation for the forthcoming year.

This story Eyes on the road: How garbage trucks will use AI to fix city's worst potholes first appeared on The Canberra Times.