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Motorists' Smartphones May Help Highway Bosses Keep Roads Safe

Vibrations picked up by smartphones could tell road engineers which areas require repair.

Motorists with smartphones could help maintain road quality by sending data from their phones that would allow engineers to assess when road repairs are needed, according to a new study.

Credit: University of Birmingham (U.K.)

Researchers at the U.K.’s University of Birmingham found that high-resolution three-axis accelerometers and GPS tracking built into smartphones, along with an app, can provide useful measures of road roughness for civil engineers.

This "crowdsourced" data sent by motorists of how their vehicle moves vertically in relation to the roadway could be used by road agencies to generate a low-cost summary of the condition of the entire road network, evaluate and compare maintenance policies, and screen roads to identify and prioritize maintenance projects.

Said the university's Michael Burrow, "Vertical acceleration data from smartphones could be analyzed using machine learning algorithms to enable [relative road roughness] to be predicted to a similar accuracy as would be expected from a visual inspection, but with improved repeatability and reproducibility."

From University of Birmingham (U.K.)
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