New ‘pothole alert’ technology will help drivers to avoid hazards

30th June 2015

Potholes are a huge problem throughout the UK. According to independent website, road maintenance in England and Wales is underfunded by around 55%, which equates to £1 billion every year.

The website also reports that local authorities currently pay out more than £30 million in compensation claims due to poor roads, and that potholes are a major cause of axle and suspension failure in vehicles. Such failures account for a third of all mechanical issues and costs British motorists an estimated £2.8 billion every year.

However, pothole damage might soon become a thing of the past thanks to Jaguar Land Rover’s “pothole alert” technology.

The Coventry-based car giant has developed a system that scans the road to detect potholes and broken drain covers, the vehicles suspension can then instantly adjust to minimise the impact.

The company is already offering the system in its Range Rover models as an optional extra, but there are plans to develop this technology much further.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are currently developing a system that will help drivers to avoid hazards by scanning the road surface ahead to alert the driver to potential problems. This technology would allow the driver to take evasive action in good time and to reduce the impact of a pothole or to avoid it altogether.

It is hoped that this will help to cut repair bills, but also to reduce road accidents, as drivers who swerve to avoid potholes at the last minute are at greater risk of colliding with other motorists.

Pothole mapping

As vehicles are becoming better connected via technologies such as mobile wi-fi and GPS, JLR have begun developing a system that will automatically record the location of potholes and share this data via the cloud. Mapping the location of potholes could help to forewarn other road users that they are approaching a hazard, allowing them to take evasive action in safer and more timely manner.

The location of potholes is also useful information to local authorities and JLR is already working with councils to develop a system that could prioritise areas in need of repair and ultimately improve the speed and efficiency of road maintenance.

This could include emailing pictures of the obstacles to the council so its engineers can assess their severity and work out how urgently they need to be fixed.

The need for help

The average frequency for a road to be resurfaced in England is now once every 54 years and in Wales it is once every 107 years, which puts down to a ‘patch and mend’ mentality.

The site reports that if all authorities were given the budgets they need to fix their roads, it would take English authorities 12 years to catch up with the current backlog, and Welsh authorities 14 years.

Due to the enormity of this task, any assistance in the identification and prioritisation of problem areas is surely a good thing and could help stem the tide of costly compensation claims for local government authorities.

Another step on the road to driverless

In addition to potholes, JLR’s system will also detect other hazards which could damage vehicles, such as broken manhole covers.

Connected Car Director at JLR, Dr Mike Bell said “Ultimately, sensing the road ahead and assessing hazards is a key building block on our journey to the autonomous car.”

“In the future, we are looking to develop systems that could automatically guide a car around potholes without the car leaving its lane and causing a danger to other drivers. If the hazard were significant enough, safety systems could slow or even stop the car to minimise the impact.”

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