UCC & Google Cloud Platform - Unsupervised machine learning for timely road pavement monitoring infographic

Insight UCC secures funding for €239,768 road defect sensors project in university buses

Submitted on Wednesday, 01/03/2023

Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, UCC and the School of Engineering and Architecture, UCC in collaboration with McCurdy Associates Consulting Engineers Ltd has secured project funding for ‘Road Phone’ – Road pavement condition monitoring using smartphone sensing at the community level from SFI under the National Challenge Fund – Future Digital Challenge which seeks to realise transformational societal and economic impact from disruptive digital technologies.

In Ireland and globally, thousands of kilometers of road pavement inevitably deteriorate with time and use and require regular survey to monitor surface condition. Conventionally, road surveying relies on designated vehicles equipped with specialised sensors deployed on a multiannual basis over the entire road network.

For optimal road maintenance and risk mitigation road monitoring should be carried out on a monthly/quarterly basis. The current method of surveying is, however, prohibitively expensive for this more frequent road pavement monitoring.

The ‘Road Phone’ project will develop a novel low-cost sensing technology for semi-live road pavement monitoring using smartphones installed in University College Cork shuttle buses. Road surface defects can cause vehicle ‘bumping’ and these vibrations can be captured by sensors embedded in smartphones together with GPS location coordinates. The smartphone data gathered will be analysed using cutting-edge machine learning algorithms to detect road pavement defects at the community level (road network between UCC campuses) for the very first time in the world.

The smartphone sensing technology will create semi-live road deterioration maps to facilitate more timely road maintenance by stakeholders than could previously be undertaken. It will mitigate the risk of cascading road failure and reduce road repair costs whilst improving transportation safety, economic efficiency and sustainability.

The project leads are Dr Zili Li (School of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, University College Cork); Dr Andrea Visentin, School of Computer Science and Information Technology, University College Cork and Mr James Loney (Pavement Technology, McCurdy Associates Consulting Engineers Ltd).