Autonomous robot checks city streets for potholes

  • November 16, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Robotiz3d, a spin out from the University of Liverpool, is developing an autonomous robot to patrol the streets in search of potholes following successful private investment.

This innovation is set to improve the maintenance of roads by local authorities and private highways maintenance companies. Robotiz3d has already mooted commercial interest from within the public and private sectors.

This first equity round for Robotiz3d involved a cash injection from A2E Industries and the University of Liverpool.

Potholes are the bane of motorists causing damage to vehicles and cost to councils. Almost two million potholes are fixed every year in the UK, and yet more are appearing each day. Conventional and manual methods are inefficient and cannot cope with this spiralling problem.

Backed by four years of research, and two patent-pending technologies, the Robotiz3d development could see autonomous robots with artificial intelligence scouring roads with the ability to identify existing potholes and repair cracks before they have chance to develop.

“Robotiz3d will autonomously identify and localise potholes, characterise their geometry and collect measurements on the go,” said Paolo Paoletti, CTO of Robotiz3d. “The ability to automatically deposit sealing material, fixing smaller cracks before they evolve into potholes, is also a first.”

He said these features, coupled with a prediction algorithm to help prioritise work schedules, were anticipated to improve the safety and lifespan of road networks, make maintenance tasks Covid-resilient, and contribute to reductions in road repair costs, fuel consumption, greenhouse-gas emission and tyre wear.

Amin Amiri, CEO of A2E Industries, added: “This is a true innovation that can help the UK save public money and save hassle for the citizen. We’re confident in Robotiz3d and its highly capable engineering and management team to bring this much-needed technology to market. The technology could eventually solve one of the most endemic worldwide problems of the logistics and transport industry, with transformative impact.”

Efforts to partner end-user organisations to ensure meaningful product development have also kick started. Hertfordshire County Council is leading the pack in collaborative activities with the company and is one of the leading highways asset management practitioners in the UK.

Phil Bibby, the council’s executive member for highways and environment, said: “We are delighted to offer our expertise and help embed real life practical requirements into the development. It’s exciting to be part of the progress and we are keen to trial the prototype.”

The spin out is a joint venture between A2E Industries and the University of Liverpool, together with its co-founders CEO Lisa Layzell, CTO Paolo Paoletti and technical director Sebastiano Fichera.

The University of Liverpool is one of the UK’s top research institutions with an annual turnover of £575m. The university’s enterprise investment fund supports activities after completion of the research stage and when the university believes the project is ready for the commercialisation phase.