- The UK Department for Transport announced a 2 million pound ($2.5 million) project to use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to survey 100,000 miles of roads as part of the government’s autonomous vehicle (AV) preparation strategy. It will be the nation’s most comprehensive audit of road markings and conditions.
- The audit will examine white lines and other markings, as well as pavement conditions on roads and sections of bicycle lanes. The government says the information will be shared with local governments to help target where future investments are needed.
- Technology for the audit will come from Gaist, a North Yorkshire company that uses AI and other data science to analyze a vast bank of more than 1.8 billion images of roads.
The UK government has promised AVs would be on roads by 2021, and has invested heavily in testing and planning for the technology through $33 million in AV pilots and a years-long review of vehicle laws.
The road audit acknowledges that infrastructure is a key part of the self-driving technology. Analyzing the road markings will help programmers know how to prepare their software to read the roads, and will direct the government to possible problem areas that need repair or redesign.
The government’s use of AI will save it from doing a time-consuming manual review. Gaist’s technology builds on billions of photos collected by vans, which spend up to eight hours a day collecting roadway photos. The company used machine learning to train software to identify road markings and defects like cracks, helping to analyze the reams of photos despite the light and quality, creating what it calls a “digital twin” of local roads.
Companies and governments are investing heavily to create digital maps and audits of roads and curbs to support everything from accessibility for people with disabilities to better regulating ride-sharing companies’ use of streets. That’s especially true in the run-up to AVs, which will rely on virtual maps to navigate cities.
Toyota partnered with CARMERA on a mapping project in Tokyo, and mapping companies like TomTom’s telematics arm have been the subject of major sales. The comprehensive UK survey is sure to offer AV companies valuable information that will help accelerate their use on roads.