Industry News, Latest News, Technology

Civiltech: More, with less

A new report from the Grattan Institute indicates that some councils are under resourced and unprepared to adequately care for their respective road networks.

The recording and assessing of road data is essential in maintaining a high performing road network. Many factors make this difficult, so Roads & Infrastructure Magazine looked at what technologies can assist.

Australia’s network of roads and highways have a length of 873,573 kilometres, making it one of the world’s most vast road networks (Worlddata.info).

Tracking, managing and evaluating the vastness of this road network can be trying, especially in rural areas, where the road network can often be difficult, or too large to track.

Essential resources rely on these roads to be maintained and of a high quality, with agriculture, freight, shops and emergency services all relying on the highways and main roads across the country.

In a landmark report from the Grattan Institute (Potholes and pitfalls: How to fix local roads) released in November of last year, concerns and potential issues around road infrastructure maintenance were placed in the limelight.

With financial pressures and less resources, councils are often unable to fulfill their usual services. And this is happening to more councils than you might expect, as Civiltech Solutions Founder and CEO Leigh Carnall explains.

“It’s a critical issue. There is a shortfall in funding and other factors that are leading to a lack of data and information that councils require for their road network, as well as grave limitations that councils have in understanding their own network,” he says.

Civiltech Solutions’ technology helps councils and road authorities to achieve more, with less.
Image courtesy of Civiltech Solutions.

This is an issue that has also been exacerbated by a growing resilience and pressure on councils to deliver a multitude of services.

“Compared to when I started out in local government 23 years ago, there’s been a huge increase in the responsibilities that councils have for the community. There’re more and more things that councils are now expected to deliver,” Carnall says.

“Whether it be implementing legislation from other levels of government, through to local expectations around infrastructure and assets, they are all essential functions of a community. Roads often get neglected, or councils just go out and fill up a pothole. That attitude is having a big impact on our road network.”

According to the aforementioned report, 75 per cent of Australia’s roads are managed by councils, which includes both sealed and unsealed roads. The Institute estimates that an extra $1 billion is required in the next 12 months just to keep the same roads in the same condition that they’re in today.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it.

Luckily, recent developments in technology are opening the door for councils across the country to achieve far more, with less.

The Civiltech difference 

Data collection is vital to accurately assessing when and where upgrades are needed. The latest National State of the Assets report showed that less than 20 per cent of responding councils said they base their infrastructure performance data on high-quality evidence. Poor data in many cases leads to poor road quality, longevity, sustainability and performance.

Civiltech Solutions is hoping to turn the tide by providing affordable, easy-to-use and accurate road and infrastructure mapping.

Founded in 2011, the company is responsible for the development of sustainable infrastructure solutions. Its current endeavour, working with Cyvl.ai, is helping to optimise AI technologies to improve project outcomes.


 

Related stories:

 


In laymen’s terms, this technology uses sensors to record data and imagery of road asset conditions. It therefore turns imagery into actionable data that can help to influence decisions around upgrade works, repairs and more.

“The Grattan Institute said that funding for many councils has plateaued off. So effectively they’re trying to do more with less. This isn’t working due to the lack of funding backing that up,” Carnall says.

Cyvl.ai’s sensor can be mounted to any vehicle, ensuring that the technology is easy to install and non-invasive. Once installed on the roof of a car for example, the sensor – along with Cyvl.ai’s AI algorithms – evaluate factors such as pavement conditions, pavement markings and signage.

“With the Cyvl sensor we use computer vision to detect the cracks and potholes down the road. Uniquely we’ve also integrated LIDAR radar into the sensor. The AI will look at the data sets to differentiate between a shadow and a pothole for example,” Carnall says.

“By using the AI, the system is much more accurate. Plus when you’re looking at road cracking, what typically happens is water gets into the pavement and starts to weaken the base course layer. Every time a car goes over this, water squishes into the pavement. Now with LIDAR radar, it’s easy to detect this cracking using computer vision.”

The Cyvl.ai’s sensor uses Artificial Intelligence to increase the quality and accuracy of road network management.
Image courtesy of Civiltech Solutions.

This information can be viewed in actionable reports within days, with the process of completing field surveys being up to 10 times faster than traditional methods.

Currently, this technology is being adapted to the Australian market, a task that is gathering momentum as both companies eye a widespread release across the nation in the coming months.

“Whether you’re in a regional council or a metropolitan council, there’s benefits across all levels when you utilise technology like this. Even if you don’t have a current roadmap, this is a great way to start your blank canvas and build up that pool of data,” Carnall says.

“Even for those who might have a deep understanding of their road network, it’s fantastic to gain additional information, especially for assets that may have been too expensive to record previously. We can collect all of that and more, all in one pass thanks to this technology.”

Carnall says that for some the technology needs to be seen to be believed. It’s making an impact already in the US and soon Australia. 

“I love going out to councils and talking about asset management, talking about roadways, showing them what this magic black box can do. It does seem like magic,” Carnall says.

“I’m passionate about what this technology means for the nation. Once we start collecting this information on a regular basis, the thought of what we’ll be able to achieve with this information is really exciting.” 

This article was originally published in the May edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

Send this to a friend