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Researchers from the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology in South Korea have developed a way to use artificial intelligence (AI) to avoid potholes. The AI-based system automatically scans the surface of the road and detects potholes. This technology can help the government pave over potholes to prevent damage to cars or accidents.

Potholes are a significant issue in South Korea

Potholes in South Korea are a substantial problem for drivers during the rainy season. They can cause damage to vehicles and even dangerous accidents.

Drivers reported about 7000 potholes in Seoul in August 2020 alone. Between 2016 and 2018, drivers also reported more than 650,000 potholes across the country. The damage caused by potholes amounts to approximately $4 million. Road repair, on the other hand, caused 1.7 trillion won.

How the technology works 

To improve roads, researchers have suggested quickly finding the potholes or other damages to the road. Scientists can achieve this with image recognition technology such as laser scanning. Dr. Seungki Ryu, one of the researchers, and his team created the AI-based system for this purpose. The system works through a vision sensor on the car’s windshield. The system then segments damaged parts of the road through an encoder-decoder network. This method is faster and cheaper than others used to detect potholes.

However, the image-based detection system is limited since pixel quality changes with the environment. As the road surface become brighter over time, the system can have difficulty detecting potholes.

For this reason, the authors made an AI network known as the convolution neural network. It combines the preprocessing of an image with the segmentation model from the previous system to improve pothole detection. The network can detect potholes or other forms of road damage in varying degrees of brightness.

The system collects data through a mobile app and then sends it to a cloud server platform to identify damages on the road. Several local governments are already testing the technology in the country.

According to Dr. Ryu, keeping roads in good conditions is essential, especially as autonomous vehicles become more popular. The new AI-based pothole detection system will make it easier to maintain roads.