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UK to use AI to conduct a health-check of its roads

The condition of road markings on almost 100,000 miles of roads will be examined to provide the government and local councils with a clear picture of where to direct investment.

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Road markings play a vital role in keeping everyone using the roads safe
Road markings play a vital role in keeping everyone using the roads safe

The UK government has announced it will use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to improve the condition of local roads via a national examination of road markings.

 

The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded the project £2m in funding and it forms part of a wider £350 million funding package.

 

Directing investment

 

By having an analysis on the quality of near 100,000 miles of road, the department will be able to advise local councils where they could best direct investment.

 

“Road markings play a vital role in keeping everyone who is using the road safe, so making sure they’re up to standard is imperative,” said transport secretary Chris Grayling.

 

He explained that the DfT will undertake the health-check in close partnership with the Local Condition Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG). LCRIG, will in turn use the services of Gaist, a small SME based in North Yorkshire, to use machine learning AI technology that will review close to 150 million high definition (HD) images of our roads.

“Road markings play a vital role in keeping everyone who is using the road safe, so making sure they’re up to standard is imperative”

Grayling added: “Poor road markings pose an issue for all road users, from cyclists to motorists. Poor road marking quality can make it difficult for road users to distinguish whether they can park on the side of the road, overtake or know how wide a lane is. This means road user safety can be put at risk due to a lack of clarity. By having a stronger road map of where markings need improvement, these issues can be rectified.”

 

Gaist explained that it will use more than 146 million high definition road images from its national databank and cutting-edge AI technology to assess over 96,000 miles of classified roads as part of this project. "This is the largest exercise in assessing road marking readiness ever undertaken in England,” said Paula Claytonsmith, managing director, Gaist.

 

The funding will also go towards a survey of councils around pavement and footway conditions, which will help outline where funding could be targeted.

 

The department is also planning to assess sections of the National Cycle Network, building on the audit undertaken by cycling and walking charity Sustrans, to better understand the condition of the network. This will help the UK continue its commitment to promote walking and cycling and improve our public spaces.

 

The funding announcement comes on the same day that bids open over the next four years for £348 million of worth of funding to improve our local roads, through the Challenge Fund and Pinch Point fund.

 

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