City of Victoria paves way for pothole-detecting AI app

City of Victoria paves way for pothole-detecting AI app

The City of Victoria says it’s purchasing an AI app that detects potholes and other road deficiencies.

Each year, city workers maintain 279 kilometres of paved roads. In 2022, around $860,000 was allocated for asphalt maintenance and repairs, while $427,000 was used for its severe weather response, primarily for snow and ice control.

Maintenance includes filling potholes and road cracks, which are usually first reported to the city directly from the public.

“We relied on other city staff letting us know and the residents,” said David McAra, street operations manager.

Last year, the city filled 669.3 m² of potholes, which equates to around 2,400 total potholes, according to McAra.

“Snow events and winter, which isn’t the best time for it, but that’s when we need to be out there,” he said.

In October, the city began a six-month pilot program for an AI app called CityROVER. The app can capture images of potholes, manholes, certain road cracks, downed street signs and other road deficiencies.

It comes installed on a refurbished Andriod phone. The device plugs into a vehicle, and once moving, the app captures images and uploads them to a database once the car is turned off.

Road supervisors can then review the database, with each event displaying the exact location of the road deficiency, how severe the work needed is, and the confidence level for each.

“I think it’s been really successful because it takes us to a higher level of being proactive,” said McAra.

Since the program began, it’s estimated that CityROVER detected around 500 potholes.

Efficiency is also key. Road Supervisor Greg Pepper says the number of hours spent investigating potholes has gone down drastically.

“We can put it in any vehicle the city has, and we can drive around, and it picks up pretty much everything that we need to know,” said Pepper.

CityROVER is a subsidiary of Visual Defence based out of Richmond Hill, Ont. According to their Chief Technology Officer Roy Tal, around 180 municipalities across Canada have partnered with them.

Victoria would become the fourth B.C. community to use the app, following Surrey, Kelowna and Dawson Creek. The province’s capital may also become the first community on Vancouver Island to use it.

The app operates on a yearly subscription basis which is around $5,000.

“We’re really happy to work with really large cities with more than a million people, but also smaller cities with 3,000, 5,000 people. It’s meant to be affordable to all,” said Tal.

The city is only planning to purchase one device at the moment. Only potholes have been completely configured to be captured on the app, but officials say it has already helped detect damaged signs and lifted sidewalks.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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